Friday, May 05, 2017

Diary: flies + schizophrenia + fasting + reading

The fly menace: net curtains on the landing

A screen fronts the pantry

A dry, chilly, easterly wind gusts from the continent, so what do houseflies do? Seek nooks and crannies to avoid being dehydrated and swept away. Hence the plague of buzzing monstrosities in our bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen.

New net curtains have gone up, the pantry screen was reattached: nothing seems to work. My latest belief is that they are crawling between the floors and emerging from small gaps around the pipework.


Perhaps I was over-influenced by the BBC Horizon documentary on Schizophrenia, "Why Did I Go Mad?".  The programme was interesting throughout: strong on phenomenology though weak/misleading on analysis.

The usual BBC inability to accept that genetics can underlie anything of importance.

In fact schizophrenia is 80% heritable, and triggered by a variety of stress factors.

I was most interested in the schizophrenic's objectification of 'sub-personalities': auditory hallucinations (voices) and visual illusions - often eerily-scary monsters. Somehow the brain's attribution of agency is being misapplied to internally-generated subconscious events.

They say psychosis is like being awake, but living in a dream.


Jenni Russell had an interesting piece in The Times yesterday, "It’s worth going hungry for a healthier life". She says,
"Fasting’s complex effects are still being explored but one of its most important mechanisms is that it pushes cells into repair mode, through a process called autophagy. After 12 hours or so of no food, a starving cell starts burning up diseased and damaged proteins, tumours and viruses, in a kind of spring-cleaning that only takes place when there are no alternative sources of energy.

"Autophagy has been known about for 50 years but not until recently has its essential function been widely understood. In past centuries, when food was relatively expensive and scarce, autophagy happened naturally in the long gap between supper and waking up. Now that food is so easily available many of us eat continuously, from breakfast until late-night snacks, meaning that autophagy cannot take place. That is disastrous for our physiology.

"Junk and rubbish build up in our cells and cannot be cleaned out. It is as if we are in a car driving continuously with the accelerator pedal down, never pausing to stop at a garage to have the engine parts, brakes, wheels or oil replaced. ...

"One of fasting’s most exciting consequences is its potential to regenerate the immune system. As I have mentioned on these pages before, I came across this particular research three years ago, just after it was published and just as my own treatment for a long-running auto-immune illness was about to be halted by the NHS because of its tremendous expense.

"Valter Longo, a leading anti-ageing specialist at the University of Southern California, had discovered that when mice fasted for three days at a time they generated new stem cells from their bone marrow. This was astounding. It meant that over six months of occasional fasts they replaced damaged immune cells with perfect ones. Potentially, this had huge implications for anyone with an auto-immune disorder and indeed everyone else, since a major cause of ill-health is the deterioration of our immune systems as we age.

"Dr Longo warned readers not to try this themselves but I couldn’t wait. With considerable scepticism — but more despair — I imitated the mice, started fasting on water-only for three days at a time, was cured within weeks and have never relapsed. It has made me a reluctant convert to fasting since a few days without food have proved more effective than 20 years of medical care by devoted doctors and £200,000-worth of drugs."
Assuming you don't find it paywalled, it's worth reading the whole article. In any event, we're into the recommended 36 hour fast even as I write this.

Here's Jenni Russell's previous (and very popular) article on her fasting.


After Charlie Fletcher's final Oversight book, "The Remnant", I started reading Greg Bear's "Quantico" to Clare last night. Alas, the qualities which reward silent reading to oneself do not transfer to reading Bear aloud. In recitation, Quantico is leaden, stilted and confusing. So it's abandoned.

Tonight I'll hope for better with Frederik Pohl's classic "Gateway". The link is Readings to Clare.

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