Too Late For Elvis

An Aussie gastro-enterologist reported that three patients treated for severe chronic constipation with fecal transplants from healthy donors recovered coincidentally from MS. Coincidence is not causality and remission is not a cure; nevertheless 15 years is a long remission.Too late for Elvis Presley, now claimed to have died of chronic constipation. Sadly, a simple low-tech procedure like this could have turned the King of Rock and Roll around, figuratively and literally. If you are an Elvis fan and a Creationist you could sing in his honor and His honor, “Returned to sender… ” On another note, from the Freudian perspective classifying people by the association between infantile and adult behavior, you might expect Elvis to be an oral or genital type, not anal retentive.

Abstract | Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has been utilized sporadically for over 50 years. In the past
few years, Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) epidemics in the USA and Europe have resulted in the increased
use of FMT, given its high efficacy in eradicating CDI and associated symptoms. As more patients request
treatment and more clinics incorporate FMT into their treatment repertoire, reports of applications outside of
CDI are emerging, paving the way for the use of FMT in several idiopathic conditions. Interest in this therapy
has largely been driven by new research into the gut microbiota, which is now beginning to be appreciated as a
microbial human organ with important roles in immunity and energy metabolism. This new paradigm raises the
possibility that many diseases result, at least partially, from microbiota-related dysfunction. This understanding
invites the investigation of FMT for several disorders, including IBD, IBS, the metabolic syndrome,
neurodevelopmental disorders, autoimmune diseases and allergic diseases, among others. The field of
microbiota-related disorders is currently in its infancy; it certainly is an exciting time in the burgeoning science
of FMT and we expect to see new and previously unexpected applications in the near future. Well-designed and
well-executed randomized trials are now needed to further define these microbiota-related conditions.

The Missing Stink

The missing link.

“I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.” US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stuart on pornography

About currywurst, umami and ancient Roman cuisine.

Roman coin with an image of the plant Silphium. To me it also looks somewhat like the Roman fasces of authority, the bundle of sticks carried by the escort of magistrates but without the hachet. (From which the words Fascist and Fascism.)

Since WWII currywurst has become the most popular food or menu item in Germany, though perhaps Turkish gyros or whatever they are called in Germany are making a move up the ladder of consumption. The legend is that a woman in Berlin increased her street cart sales of bratwurst by adding a sauce made combining two favorite condiments of the occupying troops, GI ketchup and British curry powder, though it seems to me that chutney might also have been a factor. I believe that with currywurst sauce there is no evolutionary constraint, it’s not a path or history dependent product. To each his own currywurst sauce.

Yesterday a local church held a benefit Oktoberfest dinner of sausage, sauerkraut, purple cabbage and German style potato salad. Especially since two years ago when I was embargoed by the medical authorities at the Frankfurt airport with a respiratory infection that deteriorated on the LH flight which stood on the runway in Warsaw for 40 minutes with jet exhaust permeating the cabin before takeoff… I never took the beta blockers or digitalis the doctor prescribed and I did not fill the prescription for Lasix diuretic, but during the two days stuck in Frankfurt I recovered by drinking tea made from cayenne, curry powder and ginger. Several times I looked for currywurst as another source of those same healthy spices.

The church supper authorities did not know about currywurst. I threw something together on my own to try it out. As Francis Okie wrote in his gemetria and Revelations-inspired poetry, “to presuppose and put it to the test.”

I started with chipotle salsa, added some ketchup, horseradish, turmeric, curry powder. Thinking that British curry powder could well have something different from US products, curry powder being a British invention based on the myriad Indian masalas, and remembering that curry leaf is used in some masalas or curry powders but not all, I looked for something similar. I had a bottle of asafoetida (hing) with dry garlic and pine nuts set out as a curry leaf substitute but did not use it; instead I added methi, fenugreek leaf.

The sixth taste, or is there a seventh?

The first five are sweet, sour, salty, bitter and metallic according to the Wikipedia entry. Metallic is one that is usually avoided in foods. Supposedly Japanese scientists came up with the name umami for the distinctive flavor or taste resulting from protein fermentation. Some say it is primarily associated with the amino acid glutamate (not the same amino acid as glutamine). Fish sauces and their Buddhist/vegetarian substitute soy sauce are everywhere in Asian foods. Cheeses and dry/aged sausages are also foods whose taste and identity result from fermentation of proteins. Is it so simple as that?

By the way, Chinese Five Spice is a mistranslation. It should be Chinese Five Element Spice since there is not a canonical formula but the five spices should respresent the five elements of Chinese tradition and medicine.

The incomparable, the priceless, never-tasted food…

So the sign in the local Norwegian-owned pizza joint proclaims for their lutefisk pizza. You could also say the same about the herb Laserpithium, Laser for short, the Greeks called it silphium, so valued and irreplaceable in ancient Roman gourmet cooking that it was hunted and harvested to extinction in the reign of Nero. Asafoetida and garlic may have some similar but not equal properties. Asafoetida, from which we derive the word fetid for stinky, is a relative of Laser, another of the fennel plant family. At the time asafoetida was said to be much inferior to Laser. Laser grew in North Africa, the region of Carthage, now Libya. Unfortunately it was an herb which was not domesticated and could only be used when harvested wild in the seventh year (according to the contemporary Roman sources of information.)

Fish sauce called garum, with particular names for special varieties, was ubiquitous in the ancient Roman kitchen and cooking. Some say that the taste intensifying properties of fermented fish sauces were need to overcome the reduced sensitivity to taste that plumbing induced lead poisoning caused, Recipes from that period include garum in almost everything. (Any connection between Roman garum and garum masala in Indian cooking? The Silk Road led to cultural exchange dating back before the age of Alexander the Great.) If Laser was simply another umami food according to our scientific analysis, why was there no adequate substitute or replacement?

Comparing the descriptions of the flavors of asafoetida, Laser, and curry leaf, I see the common adjectives such as earthy, rich, aromatic, divinely stinky, delicious, strong but good. Names for asafoetida in various languages cover the range from devil’s dung to food of the gods. Makes me think of the Asian fruit Durian. Do they stimulate something beyond umami? Are they like catnip to a cat? Epazote is another stinky herb, also called skunkweed, wormseed,  used in Mexican cooking especially to enrich the flavor of beans and refried beans.

It would be exciting in a good way if a modern plant geneticist would take time off from creating Frankenfoods, plants bioengineered to withstand higher and higher levels of toxic herbicide and pesticide chemicals that end up in our food along with the unusual genes, to  recreate Laserpithium.

For now, I am going to look for curry leaf in the Thunder Bay Great Canadian Superstore Indian foods aisle. Penzeys probably has it and combinations in the USA. Or grow some at home! This page has a tip, might work for other indoor herbs as well, fertilize and water simultaneously with diluted yogurt.

Let them eat shit!

I read that MSG added to dogs’ food eliminated coprophragy, shit eating. Years ago I bought a pound, something I would never use and try to avoid in cooking at home or restaurants, though some is inevitable in fermented foods. Not sure I ever used it. Maybe I should improve their diets, maybe the behavior is not a symptom of any problem. And there is the coffee called Kopi Luwak made from coffee beans eaten by Civets. Poultry and rabbits are most healthy when they eat their own feces. Dogs love to eat human, cow and horse feces. I sometimes ferment grains to add to dog food. When dogs’ diet is too high in commercial food the dog yard smells unpleasant,  a penetrating, nauseating sour smell that I don’t think they like. More fresh meat is a cure but adding a liter of steamed rolled (hull removed) oat grouts to the dog food changes the smell to what is more pleasantly like a horse barn or horse manure.

The Half-Life Of Truth

Facts are facts, they are records or complexes of data. I think it’s our perception of the conclusions drawn from particular facts as true that decays over time. And unlike radioactive isotopes, sometimes particular truths will return or revive as a result of new evidence or reevaluation of the old evidence and data. I hope to read the book; in the meantime I assume from the reviews that this book applies statistical methods to scientific knowledge/facts. So it is subject to one major limitation of its own method: statistics do not apply to an individual event; to use them otherwise perpetuates the fallacy or flaw sometimes called “the gambler’s paradox,”  unfortunately too often done in medicine. Even gamblers’ paradox is a misnomer since a paradox is a contradiction that cannot be explained by the accepted science or logic; it’s really the gamblers’ error. It does not matter how many consecutive times the coin came up heads, unless the game is rigged the probability of the next time being tails is still one in two. A radioactive substance may have a half-life of 3 months. An atom of that substance may not have decayed after 1,000 years. Statistics give you probabilities about future behavior of collections or aggregates of objects/events based on and derived from analysis of past outcomes of similar (but necessarily not identical) populations and events. How good is the modeling and similarity?

From The Scientist

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date

By Samuel Arbesman
Current, October 2012

Did you think a “fact” was something proven to be true? Behold its Pluto-like demotion to merely something we think is true—for now. “Facts” live and die, writes Samuel Arbesman in this nifty introduction to “scientometrics,” the ecology of knowledge; facts migrate through social networks, interbreed, evolve, and undergo mass extinctions. Surprisingly, the growth and turnover of knowledge plot the same predictable curves as bacteria in a petri dish or a radioisotope’s decay. But predictable doesn’t mean optimal: errors are perpetuated, effort is duplicated, and pieces of many a lifesaving puzzle lie buried in widely separated studies. Data mining and crowdsourcing are beginning to leverage computers to extract more value from what we don’t know we know.

Arriving just as a seemingly solid fact—random mutation—is shaken by the epigenetics earthquake, this book is well timed. And it’s full of fascinating tidbits: DNA-copying enzymes make the same mistakes as medieval scribes! Unfortunately, the book is marred by clumsy writing and careless editing, overlooking even the odd mathematical howler: included on a chart of technological capacities that double in mere months is “DNA sequencing, dollars per base [pair].” That’s stated backwards—it’s the bang, not the buck, that doubles.

The publisher’s promotional blurb:

Facts* change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that Pluto was a planet. For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing.
But it turns out there’s an order to the state of knowledge, an explanation for how we know what we know. Samuel Arbesman is an expert in the field of scientometrics—literally the science of science. Knowl­edge in most fields evolves systematically and predict­ably, and this evolution unfolds in a fascinating way that can have a powerful impact on our lives.
Doctors with a rough idea of when their knowl­edge is likely to expire can be better equipped to keep up with the latest research. Companies and govern­ments that understand how long new discoveries take to develop can improve decisions about allocating resources. And by tracing how and when language changes, each of us can better bridge gen­erational gaps in slang and dialect.
Just as we know that a chunk of uranium can break down in a measurable amount of time—a radioactive half-life—so too any given field’s change in knowledge can be measured concretely. We can know when facts in aggregate are obsolete, the rate at which new facts are created, and even how facts spread.
Arbesman takes us through a wide variety of fields, including those that change quickly, over the course of a few years, or over the span of centuries. He shows that much of what we know consists of “mesofacts”—facts that change at a middle timescale, often over a single human lifetime. Throughout, he of­fers intriguing examples about the face of knowledge: what English majors can learn from a statistical analysis of The Canterbury Tales, why it’s so hard to measure a mountain, and why so many parents still tell kids to eat their spinach because it’s rich in iron.
*I am not at all sorry to disagree. It is an error and misunderstanding to call scientific opinions or conclusions facts.

Snorting Yogurt

For sinusitis.

Sterile is not sanitary/healthy.

“Researchers link a bacteria species, once believed to be innocuous, to chronic sinusitis—persistent inflammation of the sinuses—and also come up with an unusual potential cure. Introducing a second bacterial species into the noses of mice prevented the sinusitis-causing strain from gaining a foothold and causing symptoms. ”

The particular species used in this experiment was a lactobacillus.

“…For one thing, it is possible that a variety of bacterial species could cause sinusitis symptoms, and it is not clear whether L. sakei would be protective in all cases.

Somewhat ironically, Lynch was suffering from a cold and blocked sinuses when talking to The Scientist.Asked whether she was tempted to self-treat with L. sakei, she said only, ‘the guy who swallowedHelicobactor pylori got a Nobel prize, right? So the stakes are high.’”

The saline/bicarbonate in your neti pot might change the environment to select for the beneficial microbial species. Xylitol  targets cavity forming bacteria in your mouth, maybe pathogens in the nose, too. Gargling with dilute peroxide could have similar effects. But introducing probiotic bacteria in the nose has the potential for them to spread on their own higher into the sinuses to take out the pathogens.

Louis Pasteur’s deathbed admission: “Bernard was correct. I was wrong. The microbe (germe) is nothing. The terrain (milieu) is everything.”

And here you have the fundamental contradictions between homeopathic and allopathic principles.

1. Disease arises from micro-organisms outside the body. Disease arises from micro-organisms within the cells of the body.
2. Micro-organisms are generally to be guarded against. These intracellular micro-organisms normally function to build and assist in the metabolic processes of the body.
3. The function of micro-organisms is constant. The function of these organisms changes to assist in the catabolic (disintegration) processes of the host organism when that organism dies or is injured, which may be chemical as well as mechanical.
4. The shapes and colours of micro-organisms are constant. Micro-organisms change their shapes and colours to reflect the medium.
5. Every disease is associated with a particular micro-organism. Every disease is associated with a particular condition.
6. Micro-organisms are primary causal agents. Micro-organisms become “pathogenic” as the health of the host organism deteriorates. Hence, the condition of the host organism is the primary causal agent.
7. Disease can “strike” anybody. Disease is built by unhealthy conditions.
8. To prevent disease we have to “build defences.” To prevent disease we have to create health.
One swallow does not make a summer -Aristotle
*To be specific, Professor Mervyn Singer, of the British research team found “Of the 52 privates in the 13th Light Dragoons wounded by sabre, gunfire and cannon injuries at Waterloo, only two subsequently died.” This was despite that fact that they all had serious infections and nearly complete shut down of all internal organs, only two of 52, or 4% died as a result.
Just 60 years later, during the American Civil War, the “new” surgical techniques used unclean scalpels and “butcher knives” to remove injured arms and legs. The result was nearly 1/5 or 20% of the injured soldiers were dying days later of severe infections or septicemia caused by the “new medical” treatments.
It seemed that a greater percentage of Civil War soldiers were dying from the “medical” care they received, than were dying from enemy gunfire on the battlefield. This problem was solved when doctors actually started washing their hands before surgery and even cleaning their surgical tools. But…
Compare that to what is happening in today’s modern hospitals where surgical patients are dying at an even far greater rate, about 30%, from septicemia and major organ shutdown. Clearly something is going wrong in modern hospitals. That is even worse than the record of the Civil War surgeons who never washed their hands. So what can be going so wrong? And why is nobody shouting about this? Is the medical profession going backwards?

The Science Of Sliding On Snow

A tiny, heated steel sphere covered in the new coating, so as it cools there is a continuous film of vapor without bubbling. Without the coating (right) the cooling of the heated rod leads to conventional bubbly boiling.

Instead, the researchers suggest future work along similar lines might control how matter behaves in other ways, such as reducing drag on surfaces, preventing the formation of frost or ice, and efficiently transferring heat via boiling and condensation.

This page is missing two images of charts and several paragraphs relating the continuous film of vapor mentioned above to the behavior of materials sliding on snow. To be continued.

1/14  Recently had some discussions online with mushers about optimum runner width for different conditions. They were correct interpreting the second graph below to indicate there is a “sweet spot” for lowest drag but where it exists is contingent on temp, snow condition, load, speed, etc. as listed below the graph. So, runner width is also a factor. However, they used the word and concept of flotation to characterize the effect of runner width, which is misleading. Better to think of packing snow. Since the snow does not respond like an elastic substance, more likely a narrower runner will be doing less work, packing less snow and causing less drag.

Sled Dog Mechanics And Dynamics

About SEPP, Roland Lombard and Charley Belford

Some notes I made at a Siberian Evaluation Pilot Project dog test and dinner in Minnesota around 1988. Doc
Belford and Roland Lombard were both present and engaged in this project, although Lombard was showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease.


Dog that leads with left front leg runs best on right

Dog that leads with right front leg runs best on left

“Rolling power” vs. pulling power


Front layback 35 degrees

Pelvis 30-40 degrees

Front feet must be turned out to avoid interference… toe out 10-15 degrees

Writing about this recalls to mind the image of Doc Lombard driving a team of dogs in races in which we both participated. George Attla had a characteristic style of pedaling partly explained by the fact that his right leg was fused at the knee. Lombard’s pedaling style was quite different. He seemed to be stomping in the snow without really swinging his leg as Attla did in what appeared to be a smooth, efficient and effective movement to assist the dogs. I think Lombard’s explanation was that he was lightening the load on the sled and dogs more than pushing the sled forward. It looked to be more jerky and disruptive for the dogs.

At some later time Ed Moody the musher and sled builder told me that Doc Lombard’s racing success was partly due to his handler/assistant Stubby Saxon. Perhaps some reader can fill in details on this subject.