cerebral_lobes (1)

Missing Organ Report

Doctors in China have discovered that a 24 year old woman who, as a child, had been slow to develop in key areas like walking and speech, has lived her entire life missing a key part of her brain.

X-rays show the woman has nothing but spinal fluid where her cerebellum should be. This is a problem since the cerebellum makes up 10% of the brain’s overall volume and contains more than 50% of its neurons.

The amazing thing about this woman is that the rest of her brain somehow managed to adapt, taking on responsibility for crucial functions normally controlled by the missing cerebellum. She learned to walk and speak and even became a mother in spite of the formidable challenges she faced with balance, movement and cognition.

And until recently, no one knew why she was having problems, or what an amazing story her life tells us about human resilience and adaptability.

Imagine how she must have felt to receive this stunning news!

I can only guess that it was a relief to finally have a biological explanation for all the difficulty she has faced.

Doctors have just informed you that part of your brain is missing. Which responsibilities are usually covered by the absent area?

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Machine vs. Mountain

The Curiosity Rover has arrived at the base of Mount Sharp in the middle of the Gale Crater on the planet Mars. It has taken our intrepid contraption two Earth years to get there, but the journey will be worth it once the machine completes its mission to dig a hole and sample some foothill soil.

This is a historic meeting between a tiny piece of human technology and a massive off-world landmark, akin to the time Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard hit a golf ball into Javelin Crater on the moon.

If it is our destiny to send an expedition to the red planet, this is a memorable moment – qualified for immortality in legend and song.

If we take the time to write the legend or song, that is.

So I asked Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to come up with some heroic something to mark the occasion, and he said he would only do it if he could steal “The Kalevala” from the Finns. I said I was uneasy with that, but he could certainly swipe “The Song of Hiawatha” from Longfellow if he wanted to, and a deal was struck.

By the looming Martian mountain,
in the greater reddish crater,
sat an Earthly metal Rover.
Curiosity the Rover.

Said the mountain to the roller,
“Who are you to dare approach me?
You who are a shiny tiny
pile of nuts and bolts and washers?”

“Don’t be such a self-important
feature of the Martian landscape,”
said the Rover to the mountain.
“You are nice, but no Mt. Shasta.”

Darkly, then, the mountain grumbled.
Grumbled with the voice of ages,
calling out this cheeky gizmo
with its wheels all bent and dusty.

“Who are you to dare approach me?”
called the bulge of crimson boulders
in an atmosphere so wimpy
as it loomed above the Rover

“I am but the first of many,”
said the Rover to the mountain.
“More machines and then some people.
They will make you miss me sorely.”

“People here will scale your summit.
In your valleys, they’ll go bowling.
They’ll have picnics in your meadows
leaving trash that lasts forever.”

“Aeolis Mons will not be taken
by such silly, messy Earthlings.
I’m gigantic. Did you notice?
Far too big to be diminished.”

“Aeolis Mons may be a name that
sounds to you like that’s your label
But when humans take this planet
you’ll become Mt. Sharp forever.”

“And what’s more,” said the contraption
“on this spot will be a marker
to commemorate my journey
and my name will be emblazoned
high above your rosy foothills
on a neon sign announcing
the location of a strip mall
widely known as ‘Rover Plaza’.”

Where’s your favorite historical marker?


Farmstead By The Sea

Back in the day, my brother would lament that we weren’t born into a money-smart family.

It’s not that our parents were financially reckless – quite the contrary. They were careful and conservative and as a result we were well taken care of all the while we were growing up.

But we were not marinating in entrepreneur sauce.

My brother imagined that under different circumstances, we might have absorbed some business smarts from a line of savvy patriarchs who could have shared their collected wisdom regarding investments, promoted the expectation that fortunes would be made, and somehow transmitted to us a knack for being in the right place at the right time with the right connections to make a killing on emerging market trends.

Whenever he offered up some fresh regret over this unfulfilled scenario, I agreed in order to avoid an argument. But secretly I was glad I hadn’t turned out to be that guy who is always counting the money and scanning the horizon for some way to gain an advantage over everyone else. Life is too short.

But now with new evidence seeming to emerge every day that climate change will cause a rise in the sea level coupled with the news that humans are living longer than ever and the first person destined to reach age 150 is already breathing air on the planet today, I’m wondering if life will ultimately be too long.

And in my most ambitious moments I’m thinking maybe I should fire up my latent market-cornering urges and invest in future beachfront property located considerably back from the shore. Some observers believe it’s not too late to alter your financial strategy to make the best of a global environment that will be water-rich and ice cap-poor. Apparently there’s opportunity there because the market hasn’t adjusted yet for a coming coastal calamity.

In other words, rich people are still buying expensive places with water views. According to the Forbes article linked above, “… billionaires like Larry Ellison are purchasing beachfront property rather aggressively.”

In a world where everyone accepted that climate change is really real, the advantage-takers of Wall Street would be buying farmland, life jackets and pontoons. They’d be crunching the numbers to locate the new waterfront building a Riviera in Ohio. With so much wealth at stake, why don’t they act quickly and aggressively on the conclusions of an overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists?

Unless being money smart is not exactly the same thing as being really smart.

What’s the best financial advice you didn’t follow?



Ask Dr. Babooner – Yoga Pants Edition

We are ALL Dr. Babooner.

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I don’t intend to be rude, but sometimes the truth hurts.

One of the qualities that puts me on a higher level than other people is my exquisite fashion sense. I have been consistently ahead of the trend curve for at least fifteen years, starting out in the late ’90’s when I figured out the whole flashy Y2K style thing (mesh tops, box-pleated skirts, sequined pants, sparkly shoes) long before anyone else had decided to put a single rhinestone on their favorite rock band t-shirt.

When 9/11 happened and attitudes changed, but I got there first with every possible variation on distressed denim.

I did the ’80’s revival just before it went mainstream in the mid-2000’s, and dropped it while others were still popping their collars. Then I went to a full pirate thing while Johnny Depp was still figuring out how to do his eyeliner.

In short, you can’t out-trend me. That’s how good I am.

But lately I’ve had a real lack of enthusiasm when it comes to yoga pants. And this is a problem because I’ve been hearing that there’s a pants war breaking out in the aisles of some clothing stores because shoppers want Yoga Pants and Leggings instead of jeans.

Dr. Babooner, I really like my skinny-leg jeans, but the pendulum of fashion seems to be swinging in a different direction. That leaves me conflicted, because being at the leading edge of What’s Next has always been a large part my personality. So in a rational world, I would already have 20 pairs of Yoga Pants waiting to go.

But the sad truth is that Yoga Pants strike me as silly, and you really shouldn’t be seen wearing them in public, or without a cushy mat under your arm. And in any case, if I’m not wearing jeans I feel like I’m pretending to be someone else.

My fashion success has always been about getting to the Next Big Thing Before Anyone Else, and then telling people how I just beat them. But now I’m starting to think my trailblazing instinct is leading me to resist a popular trend and to tell other people they must avoid it as well if they don’t want to run the risk of falling flat on their rounded, stretchy-garbed cheeks.

Clothes Hoarse

I told Clothes Hoarse it’s my impression that the Denim vs. Yoga Pants showdown is definitely ON, and if she really thinks her trailblazing fashion sense is pointing her away from it she might want to consider the alternate possibility that she is just getting old.

Old people like what they like and don’t care for the new. That’s one of the great perks of aging – you don’t have to ask yourself whether you’ll go with every new idea – the answer is almost always “NO!”, and people won’t fault you for it. That’s just the way old people are.

But that’s just one opinion.
What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?


On The iWatch Watch

Today’s commentary comes from disgraced former journalist Bud Buck, who is a plagiarist, a liar, a serial exaggerator and a sensationalist. But still not a bad person.

I wanted to be at Apple’s Big Reveal in Cupertino, California today, but I stayed home instead.

The tension that comes from the knowledge that Great Expectations are about to meet and totally exceed (or be completely dashed by) mundane reality is just too much for me. The next frontier is said to be “The Internet of Everything,” particularly wearable objects that seamlessly interface with your life in ways that will be extremely valuable and thoroughly indispensable in the future but at this point, they are utterly impossible to imagine.

Until after the announcement is made, that is.

I don’t have enough energy for this. Plus, I couldn’t get an invitation.

But I am exhausted from the relentless build-up and all the uninformed chatter. The Apple-obsessed Geek Army that rules our technological conversation expects to see an iWatch that is absolutely wonderful and world-altering, and as soon as the announcement is made they will stand in single file to wait for the chance to buy theirs regardless of the price or the time required to get to the head of the line.

Equally enthralled Apple followers expect to be bitterly disappointed. And in some cases these are the same people!

But for this reporter, it is not too much to wait for tomorrow, or the next day. I’m already convinced that everything will change. Either Apple will do it again, or Apple will cease to be Apple. Either way – different world.

It reminds me of the night I graduated from high school. After the ceremony in our bunting-bedecked gym, all my classmates had gone off to their celebrations but I lingered, handcuffing myself to my former locker, certain that everything I knew would soon be gone and determined to hang on to every moment for as long as I possibly could. When the fire department and police officers arrived with bolt cutters and a straight jacket, I knew I had already made the transition into a new phase of life.

So I’ve decided to spend today in quiet reflection – taking a proper amount of time to carefully observe the life that I know and love before it all disappears forever. Cradling my 2nd generation iPhone in trembling hands and shedding tears for my dumb surroundings – the washer/dryer that isn’t aware of my location via GPS, the cufflinks that don’t know my current heartbeat and blood pressure, the toothbrush that has not already downloaded a list of what I’ve eaten today, and the socks that are blissfully ignorant of what I weigh, and also what I’m supposed to weigh.

I will draw out these waning moments as long as possible, for I believe we are in the last Days of Innocence, before Everything Changes.

Time Will Tell,
Bud Buck

What new thing do you look forward to?


Ursine Epistemology

Today’s post comes from Bart, the bear who found a smart phone in the woods.

H’lo, Bart here.

I’ve been reading a lot of self-improvement stuff.

I know that surprises people – us bears are supposed to be happy with who we are and not too interested in losing weight, being smarter, and all that. Maybe it’s having the phone that changed my mind about it.

There’s lots of apps to make you a better you, whoever you are.

And now that I have what I need to take a selfie, there’s a lot of improvement ideas that just come to mind every time I look at one.

Having better hair would be the first thing I’d work on, but the hair care websites I see don’t say much about matting and dealing with pear-sized ticks. There is some useful advice, though. So next time I break into a camper there’s a list of shampoos I’m looking for.

He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods
He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods

And by the way – I’m unclothed in all my selfies, just like a celebrity. It’s not that big a deal – so hack away, hackers. You won’t have to try too hard to get a shot of me naked.

So far, I think my best chance for self-improvement is in the brain department. I like this article about the mental virtues. It’s talks about a way to size up your character, taken from a book, called “Intellectual Virtues.”

The virtues are:

  • Love of Learning
  • Courage
  • Firmness
  • Humility
  • Autonomy
  • Generosity
  • Practical Wisdom

I have no idea what this book is about.

The title says it’s “An Essay in Regulative Epistemology“. At first I thought this had to do with your timetable for emptying yourself in the woods, which, if you’ve ever heard the popular question about bears, is definitely the place where we do it, so always answer ‘yes’. I like questions where I know the answer from my real-life experience, and that’s definitely one of them.

But I think this “epistemology” stuff is really about all the different ways of knowing things, and it’s full of tricky questions like:

  • What is knowledge and what are its limits?
  • Can we know anything?
  • How do we know what we know?
  • Can we know something without knowing that we know it?

I don’t have any of these answers, and so I thought maybe getting this book would give me something distracting to do while I lie low during the bear hunting season and maybe all the way through hibernation too. But then I saw that on Amazon, it costs $99.36. So I figured one way to apply that section called “Practical Wisdom” without even reading it was to skip buying the book all together.

Anyway, Amazon doesn’t have a very good track record of shipping stuff to “Hollow Beneath A Log, The North Woods, Minnesota, MN”, which is the best address I can come up with. Maybe once they start delivering stuff with drones it will work better, I don’t know.

I’d still like to improve my mind, though. And have cleaner, silkier hair.

Your pal,

What do you do to improve your mind?


The Evolution of Coffee

Sometimes, the latest news has a way of confirming emerging trends and verifying possibilities we imagined long ago. So it is with this week’s news that scientists have plotted the coffee genome and brought us another step closer to a supermarket beverage aisle that features a vast array of genetically tailored coffees.

This section of our show is brought to you by Genway, the supermarket for genetically engineered food.

This weekend, be sure to check out Genway’s special price on it’s finest coffee, Sumatran Rush.

Dr. Kyle and the gene grocers of Genway have found a way to boost the jolt that you normally get from coffee by re-thinking caffeine and it’s reason for being there in the first place.

Caffeine is useful for overcoming sleep deprivation by giving you that “awake” look that’s so useful when you’re trying to make an impression.

But for a lot of people, just appearing awake isn’t enough. They want to be awake, be alert, and be in a heightened state of readiness for whatever may come their way, whether it’s an important meeting, a difficult procedure, a big game, a fun evening or a tough day with the kids …

… that’s why the beans that make Genway’s Sumatran Rush are enhanced with ADRENALINE!


You thought caffine was addictive? Get a load of this!

Thanks to special methods used by Genway technicians for frightening laboratory rats, we are able to harvest key secretions and splice those genetic instructions directly into coffee plants. The result? Sumatran Rush is a drink that will immediately put your whole body on RED ALERT!

The beans actually glisten with a distilled ADRENALINE that will have your eyes open wide, your nose twitching, and every hair on your body standing at attention, as if you were about to be stuck with a needle by a creature much larger than yourself for a purpose you didn’t fully understand.

Adrenaline! It’s a completely natural way to focus all your senses for full participation in class, standing up for yourself in that crucial morning meeting, getting into the mood for an evening of dancing, or should you simply need to lift up a car or jump over a house.

Adrenaline is miraculous! There was a time when you had to make every drop yourself, but now it’s in the coffee!

And be sure to ask about our flavored versions, such as vanilla, almond, mocha and FEAR. If you haven’t tasted them all, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Pick up some Sumatran Rush … At Genway, the supermarket for genetically altered foods.

What do you like in your coffee?

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