Monday, August 29, 2005

The Mouse that Roared

A Familiar logo to most. This is on the middle stack of the Disney Magic Cruise Ship. As I write this I hope all its stacks made it back through the Panama Canal and to their berth in lower Florida. Probably just missing "Katrina" and better to be "at sea" during a Category 5 Hurricane.

We saw the kids eat mouse-shaped ice cream bars and get blobs of ketchup made by Okim, our server, in this familar shape. There was a "hidden mickey" tour onboard. And everytime we heard from Mickey and Minnie in picture ops and shows they were pre-recorded. They both have that blank, happy stare that most beginning cartoonist can practice and make. Mickey's first name was Mortimer but, thanks to Walt's wife, it was changed to Mickey via "Steamboat Willie". A brilliant marketing move for a powerful brand.

But enough about this interpretation of the logo. The title refers to a favorite movie with Peter Sellers about a mini kingdom and ruler that are brought to fame and wealth by the then U.S. policy of "helping" such 3rd world places that held some kind of strategic promise (at least for comedy) What would we do without the lowly mouse? I know our garage would be devoid of life. I used them when I took my Psych. Labs. for demonstrating "behaviorist theory". Training rats and mice to "learn" various behaviors and mazes was all the rage. Even a favorite children's book is "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Mrs. Frisby was a very smart mouse that taught herself how to read and unlock cages at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Now, the latest research inTexas has found a naturally occuring hormone that can extend the lifespan of mice by as much as 30%. This opens the way for more research into human longevity. It just seems to have a couple of serious drawbacks: decreased fertility and increased susceptibility to diabetes. This was recently reported in the Journal of Science. The hormone - called klotho after one of the Greek fates who controlled the length of human life - is produced in the brain and kidneys in a variety of species but leaks into the bloodstream. They have genetically engineered mice to produce excess amounts of this hormone and cause males to live 31% longer than the normal two years. Females lived only 19% longer. The hormone was found to increase the body's resistance to insulin which correlates with extended lifespan.

Low-calorie diets that prolong life, for example, increase insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is also a symptom of diabetes, but the altered mice were not found to have unusually high levels of glucose in their blood, the primary symptom of the disease. The hormone is also found in humans, and the researchers are beginning to look to see if long-lived people have above-average levels of it in their blood.

Recently I have had a number of people comment about my looking healthier and younger. It is very flattering at the time but now that I think about it, there may be an underlying reason. I have recently changed my lifestyle and felt healthier. I've lost weight, become more active and lowered my job-related stress. Yes, I changed jobs and am much happier with Pardee. This builder takes care of its workers. I still meditate almost daily. I've added fish to my vegetarian diet but I've decreased my intake (portion size) and snacking...especially at night. No food, only water after 8P.M. I get regular blood tests because of the Methatrexate I'm taking...a minimal amount. My immune system is somewhat compromised but my blood is a vampire's dream. This has helped me get back to walking and swimming. Maybe I have, like the mice, increased my longevity. I'm all for that if it is positive, healthy and active. I would hate to have a longer life and be obese and bed or chair ridden. It would be torture. If we could only extend the youthful part of our lives when we really felt great. Of course we didn't/wouldn't have the wisdom and where-withal then to do the life-lengthening behaviors. Then we'd rather burn the candle at both ends, drink too much alcohol and eat foods that are harder to digest etc. As the old "German"(?) saying goes: "Ve git too soon oldt and too late smart."

Yes, I know, I'm feeling just like "a roaring mouse" with all this talk. I didn't listen to my elders either. Generations don't really want to learn much from each other do they? And mice don't live that long anyway. Bob


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