Archive for March, 2007

Gout Is Ancient?

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

An antique overstuffed chair caught my attention on the American Queen stern wheeler because of its unattached oddly shaped footrest. The boat was richly furnished with antiques to enhance its historic significance. The huge paddle wheel methodically moved the boat northward along the Mississippi river when I went aboard to celebrate the two hundredth year after the Lewis & Clark expedition began in St Louis, Missouri, in 1803. On this cute little piece of furniture the foot could rest comfortably without raising the entire leg as I prefer when I rest my feet in my recliner. Turns out the footrest was specially designed to comfort a frequent condition, called gout, suffered by richly wined and dined seventeenth century bureaucrats. Well I thought gout was limited to centuries past.

When my little toe was irritated last week by the least pressure I was annoyed to say the least. Why my little toe? And why now? There are twenty some joints in each foot and considering the walking, running, jumping, and perching on ladders I’ve indulged in all these years I am not surprised those joints act up now and then. Nevertheless the curiosity about gout had me racing to my encyclopedias for clear definition of the malady.

Overproduction of uric acid which accumulates in the blood inflames the joints usually in the foot, big toe most likely. Caused by a defect in the body’s natural action of breaking down certain proteins, uric acid crystals are deposited in the cartilage and tissue surrounding the joints. I felt those sharp crystals big time in my knee joints when walking down from the summit of South Sister near Bend, Oregon, a few years ago. Lucky for me I do not have the genetic predisposition to overproduce uric acid but I do need to take care during long walks that entail steep downhill trails. Uric acid is present in all human bodies. Overabundance of sodium biurate, as it was called seventy years ago, brews crystals that are all too willing to bully my knee joints.

These days as soon as the malady is diagnosed mitigating action is undertaken; restricted diet, vigorous exercise, and now anti inflammation drugs. But when it occurred in days of yore (isn’t that a quaint expression?) it was too painful to wear shoes or even think of standing on the foot, hence the need for special furniture before the problem was understood. Finally science intervened. But then again perhaps comfortable furniture evolved from the earlier concept because it simply feels good to put our feet up. At any rate it turns out that I can activate a footrest on my favorite piece of furniture known as a recliner. Such progress! And no gout required.

Tools or Jewels?

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

There I did it again! Used my fingernails as tools, not preserving them as jewels to be admired. When I need to scrape a label from a jar my fingernails work much quicker than taking the trouble to find a blade or some metal tool for the job. Isn’t that why they became part of my anatomy through complex evolution? To get a job done? And there are other times I revert to my ancestry. I dig in the soil, hoping to avoid cat doodoo, peel oranges, scratch my scalp, and clean my belly button. All with one or several fingernails.

There has been a use for a hard tool at the end of appendages for millions of years. Not always an expected use but added protection to the digital ends that turned out to be a great big asset when it came to foraging for food. All vertebrates have them. Some are more exotic than others. Eagle, hawk and owl claws are vital for capturing prey. Song birds and waterfowl use them for moving about or clutching perches. The same with many reptiles and amphibians. But when it comes to mammals, wow! Look at how natural selection in various habitats and digestive systems brought about ungulates – mammals with hooves. For fingernails? Since someone might as well eat those critters natural selection perfected different toenails on lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Paleontology and other branches of science find that tetrapods — those are the whole array of animals with backbones and skeletons encased inside some protective skin — emerged on the world 365 million years ago. Imagine that! The source of my nails, whether I use them for tools or works of art, occurred before this species that came to walk upon two legs was defined as hominid. Amazing to say the least. And more awesome than any dividing of the red sea or building a fabulous ark.

I am most happy that metals were discovered and engineering and other technology were developed to fill a room full of useful tools because not everything I want done can be done with my fingernails. But I am most happy that some Hox genes signaled certain proteins way back when and stimulated hormones to put the correct parts on my humble body in the right time and place to become me.

Religion Promotes War

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

While driving from the Badger Mountain Centennial trail, I stopped in the street for a family leading a troop of cub scouts running across where there was no crosswalk. The leader waved and smiled his appreciation as they went into a church for the cub scout meeting. The groups meet in a church and redefine morals with supernatural law in that holy building. And by their very oath, the boys are trained to practice separatism and bigotry toward fellow human beings.

There is fantasy taught there. Inside the buildings folks are told fantastic tales of the “true” god who has led many to kill and burn and harass people of their choosing.

The shame in spreading fantasy is: that people will believe what they are told. Surely the man of god will tell the truth. Is abortion an abomination? Never mind that the god they believe in furnishes women abortions on a natural basis of which they are unaware. Because the listeners shy away from science they do not realize that nature terminates pregnancies frequently, often on a monthly basis. Homosexual life style is also taught as an abomination. Never mind that Jesus appears to have lived the life of one, if he ever lived at all. Sex before marriage is frowned upon especially for someone else. Those who practice sex outside of marriage are treated badly. But christians can believe whatever they want. Just find a bible verse that validates their attitude.

It is time to be vigilant against warmongering and hatred. Preachers expound those ideals to willing people that perpetuate the fantasy of something beyond nature causing nature. If so who caused the one who caused it? No one knows how it all began but it is a grim fairie tale that misleads the human race.

Read the ten commandments that god himself inscribed in stone. The bible says so. The first four are demands to worship him and him only. Highly important to be repeated and repeated. And read the one about coveting the neighbor’s property, wives, donkeys and other stuff the neighbor acquires. Women love to be classified with asses, and then owned by others no smarter than themselves.

The cub scout troop surely believe that god was on their side because I did not run them down on the street. God is good? Many people do not pretend they will be reunited with their loved ones after they die. They have the genetic morals to choose to do good without a bearded man looking over their shoulder. No rewards necessary.