Friday, February 29, 2008

Jack Daniels: Scientist

despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
-Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"

Again, I appear to have missed my calling. I came across a story today about some "research" done in Japan on the effects of alcohol, and whether or not one can actually drown one's sorrows.

So here's how they tested this:

The researchers, led by pharmacology professor Norio Matsuki, gave mild shocks to lab rats to condition them to fear. As a result, the rats would freeze in terror and curl up the moment they were put in their cages.

Researchers then immediately injected the rats with ethanol or saline.

Let me parse this a little bit. First, we have to consider from whose perspective should we consider the shocks "mild". Mild to humans (which can be at worst, uncomfortable, often beneficial, and in some cases pleasurable)? Because I'm not sure if a shock considered "mild" for a rat would condition a rat to fear and "freeze in terror and curl up" when it was put in it's cage. But I'm no expert on rats. So maybe it would. Or perhaps rats are particularly wary of needles, so the part that really scares them is the injection. That would explain the need to inject the saline in the control group. Because...what's the point of the saline?

Okay. So, experiment performed, here's what my scientist friends observed:

The researchers found that rats with alcohol in their veins froze up for longer, with the fear on average lasting two weeks, compared with rats that did not receive injections.

And the brilliant conclusion:

If we apply this study to humans, the memories they are trying to get rid of will remain strongly, even if they drink alcohol to try to forget an event they dislike and be in a merry mood for the moment...The following day, they won't remember the merriness that they felt.

Now, I've been performing experiments on myself involving various concentrations of alcohol derived from myriad sources for almost 20 years. I feel that my research has been pretty complete. I have used alcohol derived from grapes, mixtures of various grains, sugar, potatoes, and the occasional desert plant. I have avoided injections, preferring to ingest the chemicals orally.

While my research is ongoing, I feel that I can with confidence report the following observations:

  • Consumption of alcohol in large quantities changes the subject's perception of the intensity of a "mild" electrical shock.
  • Consumption of alcohol in large quantities eliminates the terror one feels when a "strong" electrical shock is administered. It's best to consume the alcohol BEFORE the administration of any stimulus that might lead to unpleasant memories.
  • Alcohol cannot erase memories created prior to its consumption when ingested in quantities that can be processed safely by the human body. Research in this area is ongoing.
  • Regular alcohol consumption over an extended period of time can interfere with one's ability to create new memories. One could extrapolate from here and determine that if one expects a future consisting of less-than-ideal circumstances, it's a good idea to drink early and often to avoid the the long term effects of the memories those circumstances might generate.
  • Memories created while consuming alcohol often lack detail and clarity. They cannot be trusted or used as evidence. Photographs taken of subjects of these experiments can be a useful tool for documentation, but can also be digitally altered. Don't believe everything you see.
  • The above two points are the key to avoiding the creation of additional unpleasant memories. The advantage to using the second method is that one is often heroic in the memories that are created during the consumption of alcohol. (Note: This is only effective is all persons who share the memory are also participating in the experiment.)

Now, I haven't written my findings up in some sort of sciencey format and published them in the journal "Neuropsychopharmacology" like my Japanese counterparts. But I'm willing to bet that my research has a lot more to do with the effects of alcohol on humans than theirs does. And the "merriness" that one feels...well...that's really the point, isn't it?

Stupid scientists.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


i'm sick today. not feeling well with some variation of whatever virus is floating around at present. I can't breathe too deeply, because when i do, it sets off a coughing fit. And looking at things hurts my eyes a little bit. Generally, I'm a bit uncomfortable.

But i'm at work. Why? because I don't have any sick days. That's the big downside of being a freelancer: no sick days. And I need the money, so I soldier on. The one thing I had to look forward to today--my only small pleasure--was lunch. And even that has let me down.

To begin with, I grabbed a frozen something out of the freezer on my way to the car. I was unsure what it was, but I assumed it would be a part of a meal that Polly had put in the freezer for this very purpose. Turns out I was wrong. Nope. Just some random sauce. Would have tasted great if there was a chicken breast and some rice to go with it.

Not to worry! There's a full service cafeteria in the building. They have a large variety of reasonably priced food, prepared on site that is usually somewhere between edible and good. Sometimes even very good. Looking over today's specials, I noticed with interest that the chefs had highlighted a gyros plate (had it before--passable, but not great), a "deep-dish vegetarian pizza" and a taco salad type thing in a tortilla bowl. I wasn't sure what was special about the pizza, as they usually have it there, but perhaps it's because this one didn't have any meat on it. I got in line for the taco-salad thing, but watching an actual Mexican ladle some melted Velveeta into this bowl-thing sort of made me sad and a little bit sick.

So I decided to try the pizza.

Here's the part where I should have followed my own instincts. The pizza didn't look good. It did smell good, but it didn't appear to have much in the way of toppings. I convinced myself that there had to be more to it than there appeared to be. I've seen people eating the pizza here. There must be something to it.

Nope. It was basically a lump of mushy just barely cooked and not very tasty "pizza" dough with an embarrasingly small amount of cheese on top. The sauce was, at best, an afterthought. lunch sucked.

On the other hand, it could have been worse. I happened to be reading the following article about Cheesebugers in a Can.

Hey...what's in your bag? Wanna trade?

Thursday, February 7, 2008


here i am again. apologizing for my inattention to you, my blogfriend.

this is a short post...mostly because of the shooting pain I feel when typing. it seems that whatever ailment I have in my right arm--likely tendonitis--has been exacerbated by whatever movements I use to shovel snow. And I've been shoveling a lot of snow lately. I don't think it's normal for my pinky and ring finger to be both numb and in pain. Oh well.

felt like a bit of jerk yesterday. a client of mine from Tennessee contacted me regarding a project i'm working on, and he let me know that they were a bit wet, but still standing. I replied with a vague statement about how much snow we're getting in Chicago. After hitting "send," it occurred to me how silly it was to compare a little snow storm with the massive devastation brought on by all the tornadoes down south. we can be dumb sometimes.

on an amusing note: I walked into work today behind a young woman who works on my floor. I don't know her, but I've seen her around. She's a stereotypical pseudo-flower child. There's about 2 inches or more of slush all over the pavement. She was wearing her Birkenstocks. To be fair, they weren't open toed Birkenstocks, and she was wearing socks, but there is no way her feet stayed dry between her vehicle and the building. I don't understand being so committed to one's lifestyle that one is willing to suffer wet, uncomfortable socks for the rest of the day. I'm just funny that way.