[sociate] Of rats and windows (two posts)

  • From: "Jerry Michalski" <jerry@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sociate News" <sociate@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 02:52:57 -0400

Nurture affects rats' genetic makeup
Sharon Begley writes in today's Wall Street Journal that rat mothers that
nurture their young actually activate "silent" genes that affect their pups'
future levels of anxiety. 

Rearing, it turns out, affects molecules in the brain that catch hold of
stress hormones. Licking and grooming increases the number of these
receptors. The more such receptors the brain has in the region called the
hippocampus, the fewer stress hormones are released; the fewer the stress
hormones coursing through its body, the mellower the rat. 

It turns out that all newborn rats have a molecular silencer on their
stress-receptor gene. In rats reared by standoffish mothers, the silencer
remains attached, the scientists will report in the August issue of Nature
Neuroscience. As a result, the brain has few stress-hormone receptors and
reacts to stress like a skittish horse hearing a gunshot. 

But licking and grooming by an attentive mother literally removes the
silencer; the molecule is gone. Those baby rats have lots of stress-hormone
receptors in their brains and less stress hormone, and they grow up to be
curious, unafraid and able to handle stress. 

"In the nature/nurture debate, people have long suspected that the
environment somehow regulates the activity of genes," says Prof. Meaney.
"The question has always been, how? It took four years, but we've now shown
that maternal care alters the chemistry of the gene."

( <http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,science_journal,00.html> This link on
WSJ.com requires a subscription;  <http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=553848>
this one on Furl doesn't.)

We've come a long way from
<http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhharl.html> Harry Harlow's
inhumane  <http://www.salon.com/books/review/2002/11/13/blum/> cloth
mother/wire mother
experiments, which helped break the early spell of behavioral psychology.
But it sure seems we have a long way to go. 

posted by Jerry Michalski at
3423> 11:29 PM

3423> Wednesday, July 07, 2004
3423> Is Office 2003 an upgrade?
3423> So I upgraded to Microsoft Office 2003 recently, mostly because my
Outlook 2000 data file was hitting a known size limit that would mean my
life's conversations might soon be on a speed-chute to Purgatory. Also, I
could no longer archive my Outlook file, because it had become corrupted
somehow, and my attempts to repair it were fruitless. The upgrade seemed to
fix those problems, but brought with it a few new annoyances, such as: 

*       I now have three different Contact Lists when I really have just
one, but I have no idea how to consolidate them or eliminate the blank
references, but Outlook insists on treating one of the blank ones as if it
is primary. Can't they straighten this out so it's less confusing? 

*       When I imported all my old Outlook data, the new version insisted on
doing something "smart" with my e-mail addresses that I think makes me look
stupid. Now, unless I do some tedious maintenance to each contact, my
outbound addresses all look like this: "Jerry Michalski
(jerry@xxxxxxxxxxx)". In my little world, that's a doofus look. Who cares
what the real address was? It should be hidden. 

*       Worse, the address autotype/lookup feature can't seem to get that
straight. Then the lookup function insists on showing me people's fax
addresses alongside their other addresses, all in a dialog box so small that
I can't really choose intelligently. I don't want to have to choose. In
contrast, my Gmail contact list (which, granted, doesn't contain extra info
like fax numbers) handles auto-lookups elegantly and intuitively. 

*       Couldn't someone at Microsoft come up with some PowerPoint clip art
that looks sophisticated? Does it all have to be legacy from the Windows 95
version of Office? I mean, really. It sucks. 

*       Nowhere did Microsoft add the idea of timelines, which you might
think would have shown up during a focus group or two. Just try to
illustrate something over time in PowerPoint or Excel. It's practically

*       And how about a graphics application that creates native Webbable
drawings easily? Didn't that show up in focus groups? I was once a black
belt with MacDraw, and I can't find that kind of software anywhere. I guess
companies weren't making enough money from the simple drawing programs, so
it seems vector artists all use Illustrator now. Yeesh. 

Microsoft spends $5 billion a year on R&D, which it has the luxury of
expensing, not amortizing. Some chunk of that goes into advances for the
Office suite, but I'm having trouble seeing the progress. 

Gosh, didn't I just pick on Microsoft recently? 

posted by Jerry Michalski at
2983> 9:23 PM

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  • » [sociate] Of rats and windows (two posts)