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Are You Bloody Serious?

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To: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.

Billionaires to the Stars Head Office.

Rocketship Central.

………………………….

Dear Sirs:

Please refund my $10 million dollar deposit forthwith as I am officially withdrawing my application for the All-Inclusive Rocketshot Excursion to Mars.

Upon return of said deposit, I’ll immediately FedEx back the supercool spacesuit you sent. I’ve had it dry-cleaned, and also sewed a small tear in the armpit (hardly noticeable).

Why you ask… after months of intense training and sacrifice and expense… why now?

It’s simple and I’ll tell you why.

I’m willing to play my guitar and sing songs about Major Tom while 140 million miles away from earth.

I’m happy to float like a butterfly from chamber to chamber of your Roman-Candle-to-Mars.

I’m even… yes, I’m even willing to eat potatoes grown in my own poop…

but here’s where I’ve reached the end of my tether…. get it, tether, like spacewalk tether? Forget it.

You want me to – have I got this right? make bricks from my blood? Bloody hell… surely this is FAKE NEWS, or maybe just some “truthiness”, yes?

Sadly, I gather not. I guess reality really is stranger than fiction.

These bricks even have a name?

AstroCrete!

3D-printed brick made from human blood.

Really? REALLY?

I’m truly a giving kind of guy. Altruism could be my middle name.

I’ll happily give a pint of my lifeblood to keep an unfortunate victim alive after a car accident, or a major OR bleed, or even a haemophiliac crisis, but…

I don’t care that scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a concrete-like material made from mixing extra-terrestrial dust along with the blood, sweat and tears of astronauts.

I don’t care that their study, published this week in Materials Today Bio, suggests that albumin, a protein from human blood, combined with urea, a compound from urine, sweat or tears, could glue together Mars soil to produce a material stronger than ordinary concrete, perfectly suited for construction work in extra-terrestrial environments.

I don’t care that it saves you bucks because it costs an exorbitant $1 million to transport a single conventional brick from our planet to Mars.

I really don’t care that over 500 kg of high-strength AstroCrete could be produced over the course of a two-year mission on the surface of Mars by a crew of six astronauts.

And yup, I don’t care one tiny erythrocyte that each crew member could conceivably produce enough AstroCrete to expand the habitat to support an additional crew member, doubling the housing available with each successive mission.

This was NOT included in the fine print of the contract I signed for this Vacuous Vacation of the Millennium.

I think technological innovation is getting too carried away, because all of these things that looked like science-fiction in my boyhood (did the Jetson’s ever make a blood brick?) are becoming science NON-fiction!

And also, a small point pulled from my personal rudimentary-science background. Please set me right if I’m wrong Elon. I’m not the brightest astrophysicist in the cosmos.

Matter can’t be created or destroyed, isn’t that correct?

My blood liquid volume consists mainly of good ole H2O, right?

Sooooooo…. if we don’t find a source of water on Mars, each brick produced – à la ME – to make this wonderful new condo unit is gonna suck me dry like the prune I’m already becoming in my latter years. Oil of Olay won’t solve THAT problem, Jeffy!

OK, rant over. I’ve had my say gentlemen.

I’m out. I wish you the very best of success in your Sanguineous Scheme… your Bloody Blocks… your Corpuscular Cravings.

For the time being, for all its troubles and faults, I’m just gonna stick it out here on Earth and keep my blood locked inside this vessel I call my body.

May All Your Fluids Be Vital… Larry

Is All This Talk About Aging Getting OLD?

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As Peter Attia, Canadian-born physician whose medical practice focuses on the science of longevity, asks in his lectures:

What is the greatest risk factor for atherosclerosis (deposition of plaques of fatty materials on arteries inner walls?“) …

… the answers from students and laypersons alike rebound back at him in rapid fire: smoking!… high blood pressure!… apoB!… LDL!… inflammation!…

These are all good logical answers.

And then he responds, “… the number one cause of atherosclerosis is age, hands down.

Yup, aging kills.

Welcome to Part 3 (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here) of my occasional dive into the science and maybe… science-fiction-like discussion of AGING, LIFESPAN, and HEALTHSPAN.

Yes, aging, and what we can do to slow it down. Or heaven forbid and glory be… reverse it!

We’re in the opening innings of a long game versus the profound effects of aging that could go well past the 9th inning before we declare something resembling a winner.

But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a few swings of the bat when some tempting pitches come floating across our plate that auger well for a single or a double, ie. a potentially longer lifespan and healthspan.

So, this week, I’m cherry-picking another one of the 9 Hallmarks of Aging that I find particularly interesting.

Please remember, this is written in very simplistic terms. This topic is a very deep hole with exhausting complexity.

But first, as always… the fine print.

(I spent my professional life working in the sciences, but I am not a scientific expert. I am an interpreter with an interest in this stuff, so I’ll share with you what I’ve found and provide some links for you to follow if you have a deeper interest too. Also, science by its nature is incomplete and evolving, meaning that what I share today may be replaced tomorrow by newer research that sounds different. It’s science but it’s not omnipotent… )

Part 3, let’s go…

Senescence… my name is Cellular Senescence

It’s like we live in the world of The Walking Dead except internally, in our guts and cells, we have The Floating Dead… yes, Zombie cells…

Cellular senescence … way back in 1961, a couple of researchers by the names of Hayflick and Moorhead tried an experiment (here) to see if human cells could multiply over and over indefinitely in a lab dish.

The answer? Nope, these cultured human cells do not replicate forever but start to slow their divisions and just kind of nod off into a Zombie Zone. This is called cell senescence (the term senescence comes from the Latin “Senex”, which means “old man” in Latin).

But these cells don’t actually die.

In fact, they have an increased resistance to cell death by finding pathways that allow them to escape our immune system clearance and survive. They also begin to do some weird things, like changing their shape and size as well as secreting inflammatory molecules, which, in turn, can cause other cells to become senescent.

Scientists suggest that one of the main reasons that our cells have gained the ability to cause cells to stop dividing and doing their “job” is that senescence prevents the replication of cells that contain damaged DNA. This serves a critical function in preventing cancer and limits tissue damage by stopping the multiplication of faulty cells.

The link between aging and senescence has been well established. Simply, as we get older, our cells continue to be exposed to a cumulative stress (of many internal and external forms), which, ultimately, leads to an increase in the number of cells that become senescent.

On the bright side, Cellular senescence may play an important role in tumour suppression, wound healing, and protection against tissue fibrosis…

… but, there’s increasing evidence that the accumulation of senescent cells as we age may produce harmful effects and can contribute to tissue changes, biological aging, and many age-related diseases.

Senescent cells secrete hundreds of factors that include pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and proteases (Kuilman and Peeper, 2009), some helpful, while others are nasty.

So, do senescent cells actually cause us problems as we grow older? It would seem, yes, according to this summary in December 2020 from the journal, Aging Cell.

Senescence is likely a double-edged sword.

Can we do something about this to increase our lifespan and healthspan? Anything?

There is really only a little we can actively do right now… but… we also have a lot to look forward to as research lifts the cover off some of these aging mysteries.

Strategies against cell senescence that can be used as “therapy” in humans can be classified into the following 3 groups:

  • non-drug interventions that prevent the accumulation of senescent cells, such as avoiding excessive UV radiation, and healthy dietary habits that include foods with anti-oxidation activity. Also, calorie restriction would appear to be beneficial as restricting calories is known to suppress oxidative stress (here), a major cause of DNA damage and cancers.
  • pharmacological therapies aimed at reducing the amount of inflammatory molecules secreted by already existing senescent cells.
  • pharmacological therapies aimed at reducing the number of senescent cells (or what researchers call senolytics). In early studies, senolytics appear to delay, prevent or alleviate frailty, cancers and cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, liver, kidney, musculoskeletal, lung, eye, haematological, metabolic and skin disorders, as well as complications of organ transplantation, radiation and cancer treatment (Journal of Internal Medicine, 2020.)

LAST WORD: If you intend to participate in the Centenarian Olympics, your and my chances should be significantly increased if the quandaries of cellular senescence can be better understood and alleviated.

While you’re waiting for this to happen, maybe try working on your handstands!

Jagmeet Singh (Canadian NDP Party Leader) can walk on his hands at 42… will he still be able to do this at 100??

What’s In YOUR Name… LARRY Untethered…

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HURRICANE Larry… Seriously?

Yup, the big nasty blow striking the Canadian province of Newfoundland this very weekend is called LARRY.

I’ve never LOVED my name… I’ve even almost hated my name at times…

… but today, it’s like Larry has become a sad cartoon’ish character chosen as the nom de plume for anyone too embarrassed to use their real name, or a buffoon *OMG, maybe I AM well-named!*

While life gives us plenty of choices, realistically, the name we run around with and answer to every day is ONE huge decision where we have no real choice, regardless if you’re a democracy-devotee or a commie-lover.

To be named is the very first life decision after we pop out. It’s made on our behalf and we aren’t included in the discussion (hmmm… seems circumcision came in here too!)

Sometimes I wonder how many children born into this world were NOT called Larry because one (or both) of their parents said, “we can’t call him that, I knew this Larry (“me”) once, and he was a jerk-off, absolutely no child of mine will be called Larry!“.

Have you ever thought that maybe… maybe… you were given your name because it was the only one that your parents could finally agree upon that didn’t have a rotten smell associated with it? YOU may have been a big post-coital compromise…

Frankly (Frank, there’s a good name!), some names are just better than others…

Some good ole WASP male names that command respect? Grant, Atticus, Gregory, Arthur, James, Charles, William, and even, finally… Lawrence.

Lawrence is my REAL given name. Larry is usually a shortened version of Lawrence or something spelled similarly like Laurence. Hail Lawrence.

Lawrence has heft and dignity and commands respect… think Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence), Lawrence Welk, Laurence Fishburne, Laurence Olivier, Lawrence Gowan, would you believe Yogi Berra’s real first name was Lawrence?

Larry and Lawrence are names of the past.

You would be hard-pressed to find a child born in the last 30 years, named Larry at birth. Can you think of even one?

And yet… right now, on any typical week in the past few years while watching TV, a movie, listening to an advertisement on radio… you could easily believe that Larry is the most common male name in the English-speaking world.

But, sadly, Larry is rarely, if ever, associated with a character with “character” or dignity like the ones I mention above. Nope. Like Rodney Dangerfield, I Don’t Get No Respect.

C’mon Larry, that’s an exaggeration, why so sensitive?

Fine… here are just a few samples:

Larry the Cable Guy

Larry the Cucumber (Veggie Tales)

“I’m Larry and this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl” (Newhart TV show)

The Zebra TV commerical (insurance) – Larry, Serial cat-rescuer.

Robbert the Burglar in SimpliSafe home security ad… admonishing another burglar, Larry the Loser “you’re losing your touch Larry

Crash Test Dummies (Vince and LARRY) commercial…

The Three Stooges (Larry, Curly & Moe)

A few other Larry’s?

Larry Flynt (Hustler Magazine), Larry Nassar (Women’s gymnastic team sex offender), Larry Linville (Major Frank Burns on TV’s MASH), Larry Quinn (Cat In The Hat character), Larry & Steve (animated characters).

After all of this, it’s just piling on to add a hurricane to my Larry list of indignities…

But, to find a silver lining in this sad story, I suppose I should take contented solace knowing that we didn’t end up with a Larry Hitler, Larry bin Laden, or Larry Trump (close, we do have a Lara Trump).

The next time you hear my name used in vain on TV or in a movie, know that I’ll be here… to just take a deep breath, smile, and accept… again… another 15 minutes of infamy!

Should We Kill Our Fallen Angels? What’s In Your Hero Plan?

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Slay the Heroes!

Grind them up and feed them to the swine!

COVID Round 4 is messing with my HERO Plan

Lance Armstrong, Julie Payette, Bill Gates, Andrew Cuomo, Bill Cosby, Aung San Suu Kyi … all modern-day fallen angels… have all, to greater and lesser degrees, stumbled downwards into the devil’s lair, shamefully shifted to Santa’s Naughty List.

I’ve loved and kissed the feet of them all at some point.

Surprisingly, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, and yes, even Mother Teresa had their critics and criticisms, but checking back in our rearview mirrors, they made lasting impressions, and most folks will agree, left a positive mark on the world.

It won’t shock me if one day Barack Obama plummets from the heavens over something we uncover, a distasteful chink in his armour. Even Canada’s cancer hero,Terry Fox, had he lived long enough, would likely have crashed from some “undiscovered-til-now” weakness.

Despite all of this, I just don’t care.

I’ve said it before and will say it again… I still love heroes, frailties and all.

When I wander my local supermarket, I pick and choose *er… squish and taste* the produce that excels in the bins – the ones with the perfect Mona Lisa smiles – I don’t gather everything indiscriminately.

Similarly, when I look at choosing a hero, I select and attempt to model myself on the best of their character or performance, not the entirety of the person.

In books and movies we cherish superheroes. I’m sorry to tell you this but, Superman doesn’t exist in reality.

In real life, we only have human heroes. There are no heroes without flaws; real people who’ve tried to overcome their fears and weaknesses to accomplish something meaningful.

They may look like hapless heroes today, but they’ve given us good reason – even if only for a short time – to see them as heroes nonetheless. 

We’re all just human is an obvious expression of our fallibility, but it sums up the nature of humanity and its lack of perfection.

They say (eg. two famous John’s: JFK and the Bible, John 15) that with privilege comes responsibility… I’m hearing this over and over right now in the whole VAX debate (No, I won’t jump on this persistent itch here and now!)

I can only YODA-try to be a hero myself if I accept some responsibility. Hero’dom vehemently insists on it.

COVID days have brought a good deal of my world to a standstill… while I can’t truly solve the larger problems of the world, my esteem is lifted when I help others… sometimes only one other, sometimes 10 others.

And this is the big thing that I miss in all of this isolation. I crave responsibility with a small “r” and COVID is messing with my HERO plan.

My value, my worth, my “hero’ness” to the planet is solidified if my inherent privilege is utilized in a positive way. A selfish side-effect? My contentment increases alongside my generosity.

Like the fate of so many statues of the once infallibly fallible, let’s park our former heroes in museums of our mind, cherry-picking the best of their powers and attributes, while learning from their errors.

Almost like happy little accidents, personable heroes like Mr. Rogers or Bob Ross can lead our eyes and efforts over the lofty bar they set …

… for if we don’t have the azure sky to look towards, then what keeps us from sitting idle and letting the world merely happen to us, like dominos set in a row, awaiting our unavoidable and ultimate fate.

Right now… today… is a great time to get prepared and revive your Hero Plan.