Archive for November, 2007

Horse flu, gambling and related ramblings

This bout of flu which kept me home today got me thinking about the national crisis we recently experienced. No, it had nothing to do with terrorism (to which we are to remain alert but not alarmed), the environment, or the impending parliamentary elections. We were shaken by a crisis of equestrian dimensions: Equine flu put much of our racing calendar on hold this year.

Word has it that jewel-clad trainers and height challenged jockeys had to downgrade their sports cars, whilst punters had to find a useful way to expend their weekly income, some even on food and family. Exorbitantly priced hats did not find their way onto the heads of botox-injected, surgically enhanced women with laser-bleached pearly whites who traditionally don the racecourse with a champagne glass in hand. A national tragedy for our culture and our economy. Luckily enough, by closing the state of Victoria’s borders to all incoming horses who may be carrying strains of this debilitating virus, we recovered in time to hold our most illustrious race, the Melbourne Cup, a fortnight ago.

Not once did anyone stop and think about the poor horses and their dilemma. Try having a runny nose with the capacity of a fuel bowser. It’s nothing to be sneezed at. Mine’s hardly running and it’s got my head going in circles. I digress. Would our world really be so much worse off if we didn’t gamble on horses? I propose the opposite would be true.

It’s like alcohol. We love it so much we can’t bear to admit the statistics which point to it being our society’s biggest problem drug, one whose deleterious reach extends to all aspects of health, civil and family life and society. But hey, it’s culture right? I propose that so is disrespecting women and honour killing in other parts of the world. I don’t mean to be exaggerative or alarmist, or even compare these evils. It would certainly be out of line to do so. I’m just suggesting that we are all blind to some things when we wear the blinkers of our cultures, and alcohol cannot be seen as an exception. Nonetheless, this sounds like a topic to inspire a future posting.

Pop star gyration a terrorist threat?

Apparently so. There’s been an uproar amongst mullahs and government officials in Afghanistan, who found a televised concert by the tightly clad Shakira too provocative, despite her breasts being pixellated.  Gyration may be a humorous word, but when commited by pop stars it joins US foreign policy and Zionism as the “causes” of terrorism, with a pro-government newspaper actually stating that it will provoke suicide bombers. Okay then.

Have we met?

A new study has shed light on how new memories are formed. Comparing the short term effect of the drug Midazolam (an anxiolytic and retrograde amnesic which is my bread and butter at work) and saline on memory of studied items, it found that when recollection was relied on, Midazolam impaired memory, whilst when familiarity was relied on, it did not.

I’d tell you more about it but can’t remember the details. But these findings don’t as yet point to any manner of improving memory, apart from vaguely suggesting not being on these sorts of drugs just to calm you down, as a rule of thumb.

In all seriousness, these findings don’t as yet point to any manner of improving memory, apart from vaguely suggesting not being on these sorts of drugs just to calm you down, as a rule of thumb. De ja vu. Speaking of which, scientists have now triggered de ja vu in the lab. Apart from having a lot of time on their hands, their study has shed further light on the processes of memory and the distinct workings of recollection vs. familiarity. It also casts doubt on beliefs in reincarnation, a theory which some support by their experiences of de ja vu.


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