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  • A. W. Hunt "Andiof the Hunt" - Excllent conspiracy compliation

    Just because you think someone is following you all the time doesn't mean they aren't. By the same token, just because things don't add up doesn't mean there's a conspiracy, but there might be. The truth is in the facts.

    Brad Meltzer and Keith Ferrell have given us a book about 10 of the most outstanding events of the world, and have given us not just the facts of the case, but have given up facimilies of the important papers related to the mystery.

    Many of these have ben reviewed on Brad Melter's H'story'd Decoded", but beomg able to have the time to examone important papers in yhour own time makes it more real. In fact, the extra papers are enough to purchase the book on it's own.

    While these 10 mysteries are discussed, Meltzer and FErrell leave it to you, the reader, to decide your own truth of the facts.

    Here's hopikng they write about another 10 soon!

  • xaosdog "xaosdog" - Not for the faint of heart or nervous of temperament...

    Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex, writes with all the authority of a practicing parasitologist, despite the fact that he is actually a science journalist. In addition, and invaluably, his account is heavily informed by his deep understanding of the processes and mechanisms of natural selection. Evaluating Parasite Rex purely as a knowledge-delivery device, it is simply not subject to criticism.

    But the book is so much more than that. Zimmer is a very Stephen King of pop science, by which I do not mean to damn him with faint praise; Parasite Rex kept this reader on the edge of his seat, in an agony of suspense and terror, for the weekend it took to devour it from cover to cover. Zimmer knows what he is doing.

    The first sections of the book relate a series of parasite life histories, examples of the complex, delicately-balanced, highly-specialized strategies modern parasitic organisms have evolved. The organizing principle behind these stories is clear, and it isn't based on the taxonomies, strategies, or environments of either parasites or hosts -- Zimmer has selected these particular accounts, and the order in which he relates them, in order to bring the reader efficiently to a crescendo of visceral horror.

    Most people tend to experience a strong reaction of disgust and aversion when presented with information about parasites; apparently we cannot help but empathize with an infested host, and to sympathize accordingly. Zimmer lays the examples on so thick, each more horrifying than the last, that reading his book becomes a sort of intellectual equivalent of hunkering down in a war zone.

    My own particular favorite is the parasite Sacculina carcini, which makes its home inside a crab. It begins by sterilizing its host if it is female, and if the host is male, both sterilizing it and forcing it to produce hormones that render it behaviorally female. It then begins to infiltrate and replace the crab's body, including much of its brain. The crab continues seeking food, which it feeds directly to its parasite. When Sacculina reproduces, it places its offspring in a pouch where the crab's offspring would go (if the host is male, the parasite forms a pouch in the appropriate location). The crab acts to protect the parasite's offspring just as it would its own -- and even carefully disperses them when it is time to do so, just as it would carriers of its own genetic heritage. This is the stuff of science fiction, a parasite that takes over everything and leaves only its host's outer shell intact.

    Nevertheless, it is perhaps still more horrifying to learn that many parasites of vertebrate hosts have evolved to produce (or cause their hosts to produce) neurotransmitters that tend to create behavior patterns that serve the parasite's interests far more than the host's. For example, if a parasite lives in a fish in one stage of its life cycle, but wants to be in a bird for the next, it makes its piscine host less afraid of shadows on the water, and more interested in feeding near the surface. Indeed, psychologists have found distinct behavior patterns -- different in males and females -- associated with being a human host to cysts of the parasite Toxoplasma. Toxoplasma wants its host to be eaten by a predator, so it makes males tend to be loners who resent authority, and makes females tend to be outgoing and overly-trusting. By the way, if, like me, you grew up with cats, you almost certainly host Toxoplasma yourself.

    Having shattered his audience with such ghastly memes as these, Zimmer next begins to put some of the pieces back together. He mitigates the naked horror of the first chapters with an exploration of the role parasites and parasitism have played in the evolution of multi-cellular organisms. To a degree he overstates his case; if it is true that parasites are a third and in many ways causal factor in the well-known phenomenon whereby wolves cull the weak out of the caribou herd, it is not accurate to claim that the parasites are "the" drivers of evolution. It is, however, accurate to say that parasites co-evolved with both caribou and wolf, and that the role parasites generally have played in all natural selection has been consistently and systematically over-looked and under-considered in the evolution literature.

    There is much of interest in the evolution section which I will not discuss here; rather I will confine myself to the final punchline: since medical science has begun successfully eradicating many kinds of parasites from the post-industrial human experience, new disorders have begun to emerge to replace the "missing" organisms.

    Many parasites have the ability to reduce their hosts' immune responses. If the presence of such parasites was, on average, an evolutionary constant, then we can expect humans to have evolved immune systems that operate optimally only when the chemicals these parasites produce are present. Remove the parasites and the human immune system becomes too strong for its own good, and begins treating harmless material as pathogenic (consider the epidemic of allergies in post-industrial countries versus the nonexistence of allergies in the third world) or begins attacking its own body (i.e., newly-developed bowel ailments such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome).

    The reader is obliged in the end to adjust to life with the relatively abstract and alloyed horror induced by the knowledge that we in principle should not seek to eliminate parasites from the human experience. We might engineer them, subvert them to serve our interests just as they have done to us for millennia, but we ought not to eliminate them. Every gardener knows that it is clearing an area of its naturally-balanced flora that creates an opportunity for hyper-infestation of weed species; let's hope medical science doesn't continue forcing us to learn the same lesson with our own bodies.

  • B. J. Colorafi - Effective and easy to use antivirus program

    Norton Antivirus 2012 is an excellent program for protecting your valuable data while using minumal system resouces. Live Update keeps the program up-to-date, while a quick scan runs in the background. The program is very dependable and does not require much intervention to do its job. It is also very easy to install and maintain on your computer.

  • Frank E. McManus - Great stuff

    I bought this for the first time a couple of weeks ago. If I'd read the reviews here carefully I probably wouldn't have purchased it, since I can't make myself drink stuff that tastes bad. But it was recommended to me, so I bought it.

    The first day, I mixed it with water, and the taste was horrible. I added about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a bit of stevia, and it became drinkable, but still wasn't very good.

    The second day, I mixed it with cranberry/grape juice, and the taste was better, but not great.

    The third day, I mixed it with apple juice. Bingo! With apple juice, it becomes something that looks like a greenish fruit smoothie, and tastes pretty good. It took me about two days to get used to the apple juice mixture. The smell isn't that great, but I've quickly become used to it. Now I look forward to it every day. To make it less sludgy, I use about 20 oz of juice instead of the suggested 16 oz, and mix it with two full scoops of the powder. This fills two large glasses.

    The label says to mix with water or "low sugar juice." I don't know what the latter is, but apple juice certainly works.

    I've never been able to say this about any product of this kind before, but since I started drinking this stuff, I feel better in general. More energy, not as tired, better digestion, not as hungry.

    I think it would probably be good to make an actual fruit smoothie with the Raw Meal powder, strawberries, and bananas, but I haven't tried that yet.

    My suggestion: if you're thinking about trying Raw Meal powder, make sure you have some good quality, chilled, organic apple juice on hand the first time you try it. Give it three days to get used to the taste and texture. Then decide if you want to continue using it.