Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Tuesday In Science Land...The Spinal Cord Correction.


That big stem cell spinal cord regeneration story you've been hearing so much about in the public prints and the sound-bite landscape for the last couple of days?


BioSciBlogger extraordinaire PZ Myers does a very good analysis of the study. Here are a few chunks:

...The basic procedure is straightforward. There is a population of neural cells in humans that do actively and continuously regenerate: the cells of the olfactory bulb. So what they did is remove one of the patient’s own olfactory bulbs, dissociate it into a soup of isolated cells, and inject them into locations above and below the injury. They also bridged the gap with strips of nerve tissue harvested from the patient’s leg. The idea is that the proliferating cells and the nerves would provide a nerve growth-friendly environment and build substrate bridges that would stimulate the damaged cells and provide a path for regrowth...

...Now here’s the clinical assessment. Three patients were operated on; T1 is the one who has made all the news with the most remarkable improvement. There were also three control patients who showed no improvement over the same period.
Neurological function improved in all three transplant recipients (T1, T2, T3) during the first year postsurgery. This included a decrease of muscle spasticity (T1, T2) as well as improvement of sensory (T1, T2, T3) and motor function (T1, T2, T3) below the level of spinal cord injury.
A marked decrease of muscle spasticity of the lower extremities was observed in Patients T1 and T2 from the first day postsurgery and remained unchanged throughout the next 12 months. In Patient T1, the mean Ashworth score decreased from 1.25 to 0, and in Patient T2, from 3.25 to 1.12. Spasticity in lower limbs did not change essentially in Patient T3. Mean Ashworth score increased from 2.0 to 2.5. In contrast, there was no change of the Ashworth grade in patients from the control group after 12 months of rehabilitation.
The Ashworth scale measures the rigidity of the muscles — a zero is normal tonicity, while a high score of 4 means the limb is rigid and resistant. That two of the patients showed a marked decrease in score is good news.
In Patient T1, the first symptoms of recovery of sensation below level of injury were noted at 6 months post- surgery. The patient reported tingling in the dermatomes S4–S5. This impaired sensation turned to a sensation of light touch or pin prick by 8 months post-cell grafting. In the same period, the patient gained voluntary adduction of lower extremities (2 points in the Medical Research Council Scale, MRC), and at 12 months, a slight voluntary flexion of the right hip (MRC 1), indicating conversion of the ASIA grade from A to C.
Patient T2 showed also symptoms of recovery of sensation in dermatomes S4–S5 at 9 months postsurgery. We also noted an increase in the strength of abdominal muscles in this patient, but as this type of motor function is not included in the ASIA score, we classified him as ASIA B.
After an initial decrease of the sensation concerning mainly the sensory level and the zone of partial preservation on the right, noted in the first 3 months after surgery, Patient T3 recovered sensation at 4 months to the state before surgery. In addition, new areas of sensation covering the dermatomes from T9 to T11 on the right side were noted 12 months after cell transplantation, and a slight increase in the strength of abdominal muscles was observed in the period from 4 to 12 months. As this type of neurological improvement is not scored in the ASIA classification, this patient was assessed as ASIA A.
The ASIA scale is a measure of the loss of motor and sensory function. An A is bad; it means there is no sensory/motor ability below the lesion site. A B means some sensation is retained, but there is no motor activity. A C means you’ve also got partial recovery of some muscle activity. A D (none of the patients reached this level) means that more than half the muscles are responsive. An E is normal function.
So the end result is that one patient upgraded all the way to C, another made it to B, and the third patient showed no significant recovery, although there were hints of some restoration of activity.
I think there’s good reason to be optimistic and see some hope for an effective treatment for serious spinal cord injuries, but right now it has to be a realistic hope — progress has been made. A cure does not exist...

The link to the actual paper is here.

Upshot...This clinical research did not spring up in an operating room out of nowhere...The fundamental stem/olfactory ensheathing cell stuff was done in basic biology and biomedical labs funded by you and me.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We Interrupt This Mini-Bloggiatus...

...To tell you that, if you are in Victoria and surrounding environs on Thursday evening, you should go see our favourite SouthVanIsle blogger and man-about-town, Mr. Paul Willcocks, kinda/sorta flog his first ever book:

...And there has been ‘the book.’ The real title is Dead Ends: BC Crime Stories, but for a long time, as I laboured away, it was just ‘the book.’

It’s my first, published by the team at the University of Regina Press. I researched and wrote about 40 B.C. crimes from the 1860s to today. I knew the stories would be great, and the characters fascinating. But I didn’t anticipate that the crimes would reveal so much about us and our history...

{snippety doodle-pre-Halloween-candy-dandy}

...On Thursday (Oct 16th), at the Bard and Banker pub in Victoria, there’s an official launch party. It will be low key. We have the comfy Sam McGee room. I’ll talk a little bit about writing the book. 

Copies will be on sale for $20, with $8 going to Cuso International and Casita Copan, an amazing project to support homeless kids and struggling families in Copan Ruinas, Honduras, where we spent more than two years. But it doesn’t matter if anyone buys books. There’s a piano, if you want to play...

No word, yet, on whether or not there is a story in there on the great Lotuslandian Railway Robbery

(maybe Mr. W. is saving that one for the second edition)


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

This Day In Snookland...Big Rich Smacked Up The Side Of The Head By A Sparkle Pony On Life Support.


In the wake of Petronas' PR carpet bombing of the Snooklandians throne speech yesterday, the Minister-Responsible-For-Everything-That-Doesn't-Belong-To-Cookie-Dough-Mike had the following rejoinder according to the VSun's Vaughn Palmer:

...(T)he Liberals tried to put the best face on the Petronas decision to upstage them. “I was expecting it, it wasn’t a surprise,” said (Minister Rich) Coleman, adding that the company had given him a “heads-up” before putting out the release....


It's not possible, is it, that there is a wee bit of agreed-upon footsy being played here is there?

After all, if somebody doesn't play hardball, up front and on the front pages, how else will the Wizards behind the curtain be able to justify the giving away of everything down the line.


They wouldn't ever think of selling us down the river like that...

Would they?


The Summertime Jukebox So Far.

...Bigger E and littler e, doing their Sister Act In Downtown Lotusland.

Early Fall Update, Saturday Oct 4th: We're working on the next musical project right now....

Sometimes A Sister Act Deserves A Call From Twenty Years Ago...

Home Is Where The Heart Of The Poetry Is...

Song for Mount Polley...

Train We Will Forever Ride, No Matter How Many Coaches Long...

Can purgatory be found lurking in the parking lot of a Super 8 motel?...

For My Friend Ian....

Will The Golden Era Never End....

Our Neil, Pocahontas and Thee...

Springsteen, Mashed Potatoes and Me...

When In Doubt Ask Yourself...What Would Danko Do?

What Canada Day Means to Me and Mine...

At The End of The (Busking) Day It's What Everybody Wants...

Vincent/Starry, Starry Night It's Not...

When Busking and French Immersion Collide...

Gram Goes To Goteborg...

The Still-Beating Heart Of Alt. Country...


Monday, October 06, 2014

This Day In Snookland...The Greenhouse Gasless Gaseous Gashouse Gang.


From Justine Hunter's latest in the Globe:

...The province, which has spent many months in secretive negotiations with prospective investors, doesn’t like that solution. Rather than forcing an unwelcome restriction on an industry that can easily walk away and build elsewhere, the government has signalled that it will let each company make its own decision. More than that, the province has declared that natural gas burned to make LNG will be exempt from the Clean Energy Act, treating these emissions as somehow benign...

And don't forget, Ms. Say Anything already said the following almost exactly one year ago today:

...“My commitment is to have the cleanest LNG facilities in the world,” Ms. Clark told an editorial board meeting of The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

The Premier has made that promise to British Columbia repeatedly, a commitment that could have repercussions for natural gas producers if it applied to extraction of the raw resource.

“We have set a goal to have the cleanest LNG in the world,” the Premier told the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, last year...

Then came an attempt to obfuscate obtusely when it came to the reality of the thing, also straight from the mouth of the  'Say Anything' Premier herself:

...(Ms. Clark) clarified on Tuesday that she never intended for that commitment to capture the emissions produced upstream.

“We don’t produce LNG in the northeast, we produce natural gas. We will produce liquefied natural gas in the northwest, so that’s what we have been talking about,” she said. “There is no ‘L’ in LNG until it gets to Kitimat or Prince Rupert.”...



Saturday, October 04, 2014

Hey, Look!....BC Rail Was NOT In The News This Week.


But that does not mean that there weren't things going down.

Or not going down as it were.

Norm Farrell, with an assist by reader Lew, has the story.

Here's a chunk of that story (but I highly recommend you go read the entire thing):

This week, NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, made a motion,

"That Mr. David Loukidelis and Mr. Graham Whitmarsh be requested to appear before the committee with respect to additional questions relating to the committee’s continued consideration of the Auditor General’s report titled An Audit of Special Indemnities."
The vote, with NDP MLA Bruce Ralston in the Chair, was predictable, with BC Liberals against and others in favour:
  • marc.dalton.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Maple Ridge-Mission
  • greg.kyllo.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Shuswap
  • mike.morris.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Prince George-Mackenzie
  • linda.reimer.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Port Moody-Coquitlam
  • sam.sullivan.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Vancouver-False Creek
  • laurie.throness.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Chilliwack-Hope
  • john.yap.mla@leg.bc.ca - LIB, Richmond-Steveston
  • Kathy.Corrigan.mla@leg.bc.ca - NDP, Burnaby-Deer Lake
  • david.eby.mla@leg.bc.ca - NDP, Vancouver-Point Grey
  • selina.robinson.mla@leg.bc.ca - NDP, Coquitlam-Maillardville
  • shane.simpson.mla@leg.bc.ca - NDP, Vancouver-Hastings
  • vicki.huntington.mla@leg.bc.ca - IND, Delta South
Ms. Huntington, a thoughtful and effective independent MLA, said this to the committee,
"Undoubtedly, the Auditor General's office did an enormous amount of work. It was with a narrow question in mind, however. It did not pursue the relationship between the plea bargaining and the lifting of the indemnity — or the indemnity. Thus, it leaves open the questions that are being pursued right now.

"All that being said and my discomfort that this committee would be pursuing it in this manner, I do think there are issues here that have never been explained to the public, which the public is deeply concerned about — always have been and still bring it up if the issue arises in any way, shape or form, at least to me.

"I think there is an issue of transparency here that if we can resolve would be to the benefit of the public. As difficult as the decision has been to me, I will support it — the motion — because I believe the public deserves the transparency that this discussion might provide them."
Lew, a reader and occasional commenter, has been following this issue closely and expressing himself to members of the Legislature. I think his recent correspondence is worth repeating:
"This is written in regard to the September 30, 2014 proceedings of the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts considering the Auditor General Report: An Audit of Special Indemnities. You have all been previously copied on my January 20, 2014 letter to the Auditor General, and I wrote you on July 07, 2014 with further observations and questions, so I will not repeat them here.

"When I wrote him with questions on his report, the Auditor General responded that he was not at liberty to provide any answers except to the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, within the scope of the audit or his mandate. I therefore forwarded my questions to the Committee with a request that my questions be asked. To this date the questions have not been asked of him, nor of any other persons before the Committee. In addition, several members of the Committee have expressed that they have outstanding questions. This is obviously a very unsatisfactory situation given the public’s right to know.



What's it all about this time Alfie?


It's about that small matter of what is supposed to have, and what is supposed to have not, been a prior inducement for Mess'rs Basi and Virk to plead guilty according to all kinds of fine folks, including Mr. Gordon Campbell's former Attorney General Mr. Geoffrey Plant, who wrote the following on his 'blog' (gasp!) back in the spring of 2012:

..."The defendants pleaded guilty. What is clear is that there was no legally binding deal. There couldn’t be. The waiver of recovery of fees was not and could not be an inducement to plead guilty. As a matter of law they were not connected. But that was of course the outcome. It was done very, very carefully, to make sure the rules were followed."...

Most interestingly, Mr. Plant also wrote the following, which is something I, and Paul Willcocks too, took great umbrage to at the time:

..." But it was understood that with guilty pleas, the claim to fee recovery would be waived."...

And never forget the following....

Which is that this 'deal' came down just as the good Mr. Gary Collins, who went to work at the very same private company that the above-named Mr. Graham Whitmarsh in the wake of his quick exit from Mr. Gordon Campbell's Railgate government, was set to take the stand.

And finally, ask yourself the following...

Did the judge in the case know about the prior understanding and the six million dollar chunk of change that underpinned said understanding  when she accepted the plea deal that kept Mr. Collins from taking the stand and answering direct questions from the defense in open court while under oath?

(not to mention the rest of the Railgate Top 40)

As for the sub-header to this post....Well....You know.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Damn The Collective Good, And Labour Unions, And New Dealism Anyway!


Because, clearly, if you listen to the water heads, big muddy division, and the new dumb, the huge surge in unionism (and welfare queens buying caddies, and bike lanes, and universal healthcare, and public schools) are the main cause for the following:


Upshot: When you hear a screamer, club member and/or a Snooklandian bleating on about how giving people a fair shake and a fair wage is just too old fashioned to work, feel free to ask..."And just what the heckfire-in-a-hand-up-basket is so bad about 'old-fashioned' anyway?"
Graphical Source: Pavlina Tcherneva of Bard College via  Kevin Drum at MoJo....Tip O' The Toque to Mr. Electrico.


Last Week In Snookland...The Shrieking.


I didn't do it on purpose.

In fact, mostly, I was just so busy last week that I stayed away from the non-work, non-database portal-driven interwebz by accident.

As a result, day-by-day, an interesting thing started to happen.

Essentially, I really and truly noticed that I could feel my pre-internet brain coming back to life.


By Thursday I had even finished the Paul Auster book I bought back on our summer holidays when littler e. and I spent a luxurious hour or so rattling around in our favourite second-hand Berkeley bookstore while Bigger E. did her busking thing across the street in front of our old grocery store.


None of that meant that I could escape the caterwauling of the head Snooklandian entirely.

First it was a snippet on the radio of her almost gleefully (and politically expedient) announcing a desire to lock all the dungeon doors and throw away all of the keys on all of those terrible, evil bad people out there. This, of course, was executed in the wake of a terrible tragedy and it was clearly designed to attract the media herds (including national ones) in droves.

And then, yesterday, I heard her poo-pooing of the death of another herd of Sparkle Ponies when Petronas started making noises about the pulling out of the great LNG fantasy.



It is Saturday now.

And I've spent the early morning roaming the tubes.

So I'm back, I guess.

But I'm thinking of doing it in cycles.

Just like I do it with ice cream.


'Pre-Internet Brain'? you may be asking....Well, it's a Coupland thing...Smart-assed, sharp-eyed bastard...
By the way, for the record, I first read Microserfs, pretty much all in one all night go, back in the days when I really and truly did only use the interwebz for work...At that time I was lucky enough to be working in an American FedGov lab that was hooked directly into the backbone...
Regarding the dying off of the Sparkle Ponies...How come so few of the local water heads pontificating on the matter over the last newscyle or to have made it clear that Petronas is not the first to balk?


Friday, September 26, 2014

Democracy Breaks Out Amongst...

...The Lawyers.


From the MoCo:

The governing members of the Law Society of British Columbia have decided to hold a binding referendum to determine the future of a faith-based law school at Trinity Western University.

The board members, who are known as benchers, voted on Friday morning to hold the referendum at the earliest possible date, with the results to be released by the end of October....

In other words, if I understand this correctly, the members will decide.

Imagine that!

And, in my opinion, this is about discrimination, not freedom of religion.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Summer Jukebox Tune #16....Calling Cards


Please note....Busy week...Thus, poli-blogging will be light for awhile...

Almost five years ago now, my two kids and I embarked on a 52 week long project we called 'Our Busking Year'.

It mostly consisted of us popping up at parks and various and sundry out of the way places to play our instruments and sing.

Like, say...This.

And then our oldest kid went away to school far away and became a real pro at the thing in subway stations and on downtown street corners in Montreal.

And at the same time our youngest kid became a dancer.

So, over the last couple of years I started playing on my own again, down in the basement.

But instead of just playing for myself and my four walls, I got some help from from some of you all and started making little lo-fi, slightly off-key recordings that have now been listened to over 900,000 times.

In fact, the listens outpace the page views around here by about two-to-one.

And no, I'm not making that up.


Our oldest kid is going to school back at home now.

And so she does her pro-thing mostly on downtown Lotusland's streets these days.

Sometimes I even play with her. And while I'm pretty sure my presence cuts into her earnings, I have passed the halfway point toward my new/old telecaster that I have my eye on.

But, more often these days, what with this endless summer that just may end on Monday and all, our oldest kid now goes out with the youngest kid so they can do their two things together.

It's a real honest-to-goddess 'Sister Act', with Bigger E doing the singing and strumming while littler e. puts down her hunk of TConnorsian plywood and makes like the Ms. Bojangles that she has become.

And I'm telling you, it's truly amazing with kids.

I mean, even when they are so close they can't help but to move away as they grow up and start doing their own thing.

Which, of course, is pretty much as it should be.

But still, I'm pretty sure that if you really try you can always be with them, in spirit at least, even when you are not right there in the thick of things.



Anybody who says Neko Case (including Neko Case herself ) is not a musical genius is flat out crazy.

For all kinds of reasons, that include way more than just the singing.

'Calling Cards' is a short little story song from her last album that could be about just about anything.

It turns out, however, that Ms. Case wrote the song about something very specific.

Specifically, it's a song about how she always keeps all her various and assorted sundry bandmates and musical collaborators in her heart no matter where she is and what she is doing.

Sound like something I was talking about up above?

Here's my version, sharped the way she does it and everything (which was a big stretch for me), but what the heckfire...

And I'm telling you....If I hear one more braindead report, question or comment about how there is a big rift among teachers after an 86-14 ratification vote...Well...I'm going to start screaming Proclaimers songs at the top of my lungs...Or some such thing.
And, yes, that is a reference to the Scottish 55-45 thing...