February 2011

The Causes (and Cures) for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Remain Controversial

The NYT just reported that a recent study indicated that psychotherapy just might be beneficial to people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome. In the study, patients received cognitive therapy and exercise therapy, which in turn taught them useful strategies to combat their fatigue and exhaustion.



Jake Leg: Could It Happen Again?

During the Prohibition years, the wealthy slaked their thirst at high-end speakeasies. The poor and under-privileged weren't so lucky, and it crippled many of them for life.

Jamaican Ginger Extract, known colloquially as "jake," was a patent medicine that happened to be up to 80% ethyl alcohol, yet was legal to import to the United States. But to keep it from being drunk as an alcoholic beverage, the government insisted that the manufacturers add so much ginger that it was impossibly bitter.

To test for this ginger content, inspectors would often boil it down and weigh the solids. Eventually a pair of unscrupulous chemists found another chemical that would pass the inspectors' test, while still leaving the jake drinkable: a neurotoxin called Tricresyl phosphate (TOCP).

Feed/Starve a Cold/Fever?

As I lay sniffling on the couch this weekend and generally feeling sorry for myself, I wondered once again, "Is it feed a cold, starve a fever? Or starve a cold, feed a fever?"

I first encountered this phrase in a Garfield comic, in what must have been the early 1980s. (And I am glad to learn I'm not the only one!) I don't remember any of the rest of the context, but I'm pretty sure Garfield used it as an excuse to eat more lasagna, that wacky cat.

This time, I decided to look it up online. (What the heck, it's not like there was anything on television.) The original phrase turns out to be something like "feed a cold, starve a fever," and also it is complete bunk.

Surprisingly, this phrase originates in 1574. Which means that by my calculation, people have been wondering which was which for about 437 years. The phrase refers to a common medical belief, which was that bodies worked like literal furnaces - furnaces which burn food instead of wood.

Speak Up Against Cat and Rabbit Mutilation

The year is 2011, and we now know that most tests on animals are not only unnecessary with so many cheaper, more effective technological tests available, but also that such tests are often so unreliable that they lead to putting products on the market that may have been deemed safe for certain animals (of course, safety is a relative term when such test subjects were tortured and murdered to be then dubbed “safe”) but turn out to be completely detrimental to humans.

So why is it that we continue to mutilate small animals in the name of science? The University of Utah is doing some pretty sadistic things to animals in such a manner—things that, if done other any other circumstances, would be considered cruelty to animals and punishable by a fine or jail time.