this and that

--Requiem for a badass. This guy tried to kill Hitler twice (in one case volunteering for a suicide mission to do so), ended up in a concentration camp, and still managed to die an old man in his bed at the dawn of the 21st century. Definitely something to keep in mind when your plans fall through.

--There's a lot of talk in Seattle these days about how increasingly dense and vertical development threatens what is apparently our city's greatest asset: views of the Space Needle. I think that this is an excellent response to that. 

--A paper in Nature The Lancet this week shows that clogged arteries were probably fairly common among our pre-agricultural ancestors.  This is interesting for a number of reasons, among them that it ought to really put a damper on the idea that a lot of human disease derives from our "modern" (i.e., post-hunter-gatherer) diet. Eating paleo might very well make you leaner and make you feel better, but you aren't going to cheat death. And cutting animal fat out completely is unlikely to stave off atherosclerosis.

My take is that while a (reasonably) healthy diet is certainly worth having for the short-term benefits (feeling and perhaps looking a little better), there's really no point in expending such a great effort to die with pristine arteries. The best you can hope for by doing so is to die of something even worse, like cancer or Alzheimer's. You might as well enjoy cheese.


Gino said...

i generally leave Seattle in the early hours, like 2am, to beat traffic through portland.
its the only time that i actually notice that needle thing.
its pretty, in a 60's kitschy, retro kinda way... but not really All That.

Quaint, like new yorkers taking pride in that Empire State Building thing. it once *was*, but today, not so much...

Brian said...

I believe Victor Hugo is credited with saying that his favorite thing about the Eiffel Tower was that it was the one place in Paris where he didn't have to look at the Eiffel Tower.

The Needle is certainly iconic, and without it, Seattle's skyline would be indistinguishable from a dozen other cities (except on the rare clear day when you can also see Mt. Rainier.) But none of that entitles property owners to an unobstructed view in perpetuity, especially at the expense of urban infill (for which there is considerable market demand) and the associated economic development that will benefit the city as a whole. And that is literally what these "save our views" types are arguing for.

Bike Bubba said...

Regarding the Lancet study, the question that pops up for me is whether those mummies were "upper class," since (like cheese and meats) above ground burial and artificial embalming are, historically speaking, luxury goods--and we would therefore expect them to have some of the habits, and arteries, of our sedentary middle class.

Not that I'm about to forgo cheese, mind you, but there may yet be the opportunity to die wretchedly, but with clear arteries, like Nathan Pritikin. If it gives one person who can't see the Space Needle a reason for living (wretchedly), it's worth it, don't you think?

And Gino, I can't believe that you would diss the Space Needle. Who can argue with a rotating restaurant?

Brian said...

Bubba--that's a great question. The same group actually published a similar study on Egyptian mummies a couple of years earlier, and that was the main criticism/limitation of it. This was a follow-up study that included other populations (that were naturally "mummified", rather than embalmed like the Egyptians were. They are presumed to be commoners.

Also, thank you for pointing out the original paper is in Lancet, not Nature. I'll fix that.

Bike Bubba said...

You're welcome. One other thing of note is that the % of mummies with hardening of the arteries varies from 60% with Unangans (exclusively marine diet, lots of animal fat if not saturated) to 25% of the Peruvians (maize/potato diet).

So that cheese definitely has an effect, so to speak, even if you eat it in the Space Needle. It would be interesting to see as well a regression vs. age--isn't hardening something that scales pretty well with age, if not linearly?

Now to find some mummies from people fed mostly on corn fed beef......

Brian said...

True, but the sample sizes are really different (only 5 Unangans versus 51 Peruvians) so I wouldn't take those percentages too seriously.

I have no idea how good the methods are for estimating the age at death of a mummy (I'm betting it would have to do with teeth and/or bone measurements of some sort) but assuming that a reasonable estimate could be made, that would be a very good question to ask. I would imagine most of them were substantially younger than most modern westerners with atherosclerosis.

Gino said...

" atherosclerosis": taking a mill worker's guess here... that's a fancy way of saying, 'Got shit in yer arteries'?

Bike Bubba said...

Gino: yup.

Brian: P=.129. Enticing but not definite.

For that matter, a 25% rate of hardening of the arteries sounds pretty enticing to us Americans, unless of course you're talking about that at an average age of death of 35.