Colon Chronometry


This post contains intentional puns, and fairly POO-er jokes of the immature variety.

You have been warned.

Starts with our mouth, and ends with ... the other mouth.

Inspiration comes at the most awkward times.

This morning, during my WALK, it came to me that how fast, and in what order, things go in one end of my GI tract may come out differently.

Yes.  Some things go in all at the same time, and may not come out when expected.

Who knew?


After all, everyone poops.

However, the rate our GI tract interacts with that matter, and the rate the colon finally does its job seems to vary.

Maybe it doesn’t for you.  I can only speak personally.

I can also speak for those old people I met during Dad’s illness.  They talk about this a lot.

Some foods, beans for example, have particular affects where a lot of gas is produced.  For some people, this gas is produced and detected by others almost immediately.

For me, well, it takes a bit longer.  Maybe my system works at higher pressures?

Anyway, this whole new field has to look at all these things: the kind of food we’re eating, the time we eat it, our microbiome composition, the time of day we ate, our activities, how we’re feeling, our age, our family, our genetics, and probably even more.

What fun!

This way, when we’re old and gray, instead of having to bore our kids and grandkids with long stories about sitting on the throne, we can have a great shorthand science as a reference.

Who knows?  There may even be a pill that sorts everything out for us.

Wait a minute.  Isn’t there already something like that?

It’s time.  Gotta go.

Happy Birthday Story

Stories reveal our humanity.  We can use them to learn more about each other, and how to better ourselves.

And sometimes, they are simply a good story.

My friend is celebrating her birthday around now, and was taking a walk to relax and reflect.

She came across a neighbor’s pond, and stopped.  There stood a Great Blue Heron.  And it was only ten paces away.

Around these parts, the heron is famously shy.  The fact that it was facing away from her may have helped.  Regardless, the fact that it didn’t notice her was incredible.

What made this chance encounter so much more poignant was that her late father’s birthday was also around this time.  And she missed him terribly.

What made this chance encounter so incredibly poignant was that her father’s favorite bird was the Great Blue Heron.

My friend stood, frozen, for quite some time.  Then she started singing happy birthday to her father.

It’s important to understand that my friend has a singing voice that is angelic.  She sings in the symphony.  Even her silly ditties are a joy to hear.  So when she started singing to the heron, there’s a good chance even the heron could tell it was something special.

Then my friend got to the part where you mention the name, “Happy Birthday dear Daddy…”

And the heron turned its head to look at her.

She froze, only for a second, her heart in her throat.  Then she finished the song.

And the heron flew away.

Stories reveal our humanity.  We can learn from them.

And sometimes, they are simply a good story.

Happy Birthday, Friend.


Where Are They Now?

Does his double exist today?

Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington. These are a few of the truly great men of our nation’s history.

What what is about that time, that place, which caused these great men to coalesce into a group that created one of the greatest nations to ever exist?

There will be many theories, probably more theories than there are historians.  Let’s not dwell on those.

Instead, lets pretend that these were extraordinary men who came together under extraordinary circumstances.

Furthermore, let’s be reasonable about humanity.  At any point in time there must always exist some number of extraordinary men.  And women.  AND Women.  Yes, I always mean both!

That means that right now, at this instant, there are extraordinary men who could be the equivalent of Ben Franklin and George Washington.

If you are addicted to the news, as I am, perhaps you feel, as I do, that no one in the public eye has quite the same level of class or intelligence as any of our founding fathers.

So what went wrong?

Is it perhaps that today’s extraordinary men do things other than public service?

Or could it be that there is nothing today that these extraordinary men consider to be extraordinary enough?

What’s your theory?

Mine is that the men still exist.  If we look hard enough, there is someone just as brilliant as Ben, eloquent as Tom, steadfast as John and as unselfish and unifying as George.

The problem is our system.  Back then there was no system, no political parties, no entrenched lobbyists or industries looking for protection.  There were no academics with false facts and no large voting blocks whose sole aim was to keep themselves in power.

No, back then it was just, them.  Nothing kept these men of character and brains from tackling the problems of the time as directly as they could.

The sad thing is that, when I read the histories, you can see these ugly fences already being formed.  Tom was one of the worst offenders.  He was canny, tricky, and power hungry.  His Democratic-Republicans became one of the strongest parties of all time for any nation.  Men who liked the power were attracted to politics.  Lobbyists were created, industrial guilds to protect industries.  You can see them being born.

So the next time we salute our founding fathers, take a moment to secretly salute those hidden men (and women!) living today who are just as brilliant, just as patriotic, and just as honorable as the founders.  Well, except for Tom.  Guys like him still run for office.



Resurrecting The Ancient Biome

I’m big on biomes.  It’s so cool to think that instead of my mouth feeding only me, I’m actually feeding a few TRILLION other little mouths.

It sounds rather creepy in fact, but it’s still cool.

However, the fact that each of us carries an entire ecosystem of other creatures explains so many crazy things.  Like why some people develop intolerance to certain substances.  Or why some people respond so much better to certain drugs than others.  Or why some people can eat and eat and eat and not gain weight.  And so many other crazy things.

We're spaceships filled with voyagers.

Now if we’re going to truly understand the affect our microbiome has upon us and our society, we’re going to have to try and figure out what the biome looked like for our ancestors.  For instance, what did the biome of the Romans and Ancient Greeks look like?  How did it differ from that of the Ancient Chinese?

My guess is that we’re going to have to take a page out of paleoclimatology.

It’s possible to figure out what the climate of the Earth was a thousand years ago through different techniques.  We can look at rocks,  We can look at trees.  We can measure the temperature of the ground deep down.

So, when it comes to our ancestors, we’re going to have to do much the same.  Of course, samples from the bodies themselves will be a good start.  But of course they’ve been sitting around in the dirt for some time.  So we’ll have to sample the current environment.  We’ll have to look for old organic samples to see what might have been living on those.  And we’re going to have to set up some kind of modern model that would allow us to reconstruct that old biome, just to try it on for size.

So the next time your friend says they are gluten intolerant, ask them what their ancestors had for their biome.  Were they gluten intolerant?

Someday we’ll have a way to find out.

Peaches that Kling

This morning during breakfast my wife taught me about peaches that hang onto their pits, and peaches that let them go.  They are called “freestone” and “clingstone” peaches.  As usual, I didn’t hear her correctly, and thought of them as cling-on peaches.

It got me wondering.

Has anyone ever done a star trek backstory that explains the etymology of the word for the alien nemesis called “Klingons”?

Here’s my take.

Captains report to starfleet.  Stardate 3.1415926

We have met a new alien species.  Their language sounds like a cross between the admiral’s wife choking on a champagne cork, as she did at the last party I was invited to, and the sound a large frog makes when it’s ready to belch “gree-deep” but hiccups instead.

Since the new-fangled translator device wasn’t working, we had to go it the old fashioned way.  Yes, we were ordered to use it, but whenever we tried it on anyone, including ourselves, it translated thoughts as “this creature is still talking to me” and “when is lunch.”  Since this can’t be accurate, we resorted to the ancient standby of charades.

The new species is hominid, dark, extremely bony, warlike in many ways, and most surprisingly, extremely attached to their mothers.

This is an important point, because when we met their diplomatic delegation, who appeared to take many of our own alien ways in great stride, a particular event occurred which should be of special note to starfleet.

You see, unbeknownst to us, the mothers of these large, warlike, bony creatures are particularly small and ugly, even compared to the rest.  They are also quite imperious, but ineffectively so as none of the sons or daughters pay them the least attention.

Quite accidentally, one of our ensigns, inadvertently I must emphasize, made a fairly obvious gesture comparing the features of the mothers compared to her children.  At that time we did not know they were mothers, nor did we count on them understanding the ensign so completely.

As a result, this insult was met with the instant death to the ensign in a gruesome manner that I will divulge in a separate log.  Extrication of our diplomatic party was tricky, to say the least.  Before the ensign died, however, he managed to leave with a contribution to our observation of these creatures.

In conclusion, it is my sad duty to report that we are, yet again, at war with an unknown species that might have been our friends in another universe.  Since we can’t speak their language, and have no idea what they call themselves other than “when is lunch,” it is our suggestion that we refer to them as the species that particularly enjoys to cling onto their mothers.

Respectfully yours, etc.



Story Time: Animal Sperm


Stories are ways of playing in our behavior sandbox.  This one’s risque, but based on natural fact.  Humans are built to have sex for fun.  Most humans.

They always get their egg.


Two men sat at the bar, very late.  They’re strangers, but Carol, the friendly young bartender chatted with them and served them the same drink on the house.  So they talk.

Alan was an older doctor, with insane work hours.  His much younger second wife must have missed him terribly, because he’d discovered her in bed with two other men.

Ben was younger, rugged, larger, and reluctant.  Alan insisted, looking for anything amusing, refusing to believe that Ben’s story was sadder than his.

Ben glanced at the bartender.  She smiled back from the other end of the bar.  “I have to move again,” he said sadly, “because of her.”

“I knew you knew her.  Girlfriend?”

“No, and I don’t know her,” said Ben.  “I only see her here, for months.  But I know women, and she wants to take me home tonight.”

“Why is that a bad thing?”

“Because I want to go with her.  I haven’t been with a woman since the last city.  Months.”

“That’s crazy.  Why should you have to move?”

“I know it’s crazy, but it’s the way it is.  Look, I’m not smart like you.  I get a grunt job where I can make a half-decent living and settle in.  Eventually I need a woman, I just do.  I find one, or she finds me, we hit it off, and we end up in bed.”

“Still not a problem.”

“She gets pregnant.  Carol will get pregnant tonight.”

“Now you’re crazy.”

“Maybe.” Ben downed his whiskey.  “But it happens every time.  Seems most animals have sperm that works, first time, every time.  People don’t, so they can have sex a lot.  I got animal sperm.”

“What about contraceptives, birth control, diaphragms, off-period?”

“Doesn’t matter.  My sperm even figures out how to break through a condom.”


“Done twice already.  Somehow the tubes fix themselves.  Doc wanted to write it up but I bugged out.”

“Pulling out?”

“Can’t do it fast enough.  Somehow the sperm knows.”

Alan sipped, thinking.  Carol chatted them up, poured Ben another, stroked his hand, and went to work the other side.  Alan looked up at Ben.

“Have you thought about going gay?  I mean, it’s kind of fashionable nowadays.”

“Yeah, thought about it, but not my style.  No, I love women, but I can’t have em.  I go as long as I can and then, wham, bam, here’s your baby ma’am, moving on.”

Alan slapped down a c-note, told Ben the drinking was on him, and that he appreciated the story.  He left, found a hotel room, and slept well.

He kept visiting that bar for several months afterwards, and Carol did indeed get larger in the tummy.  He never saw Ben again.



Behavior Can Be The Pits

Behavior is everything we do.

Some behaviors are big.  Think global warming, or the fashion industry.

Some are small.  Mustard recipes through the ages.

Some are positively tiny, but they are still behaviors.

Like underarms.

We worry about our smells, we worry about how they look, we worry.

Why?  No idea.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been persuaded to use deodorant.


Why can't they behave properly?

Here’s the problem.  I also like black shirts.  I have lots of great black pullover shirts, T shirts, polo shirts, that sort of thing.

Know what happens if you put on white deodorant and then a black shirt?  You get all these funny white lines on the shirt!  Ouch.

So here’s my solution.  How about a black sharpie?  Paint the deodorant black, and it’ll match my shirt!

Of course, there’s the problem of having black lines under my arms, but there’s always a trade-off somewhere.

I think this may need a little bit more thought.  My wife can’t stop laughing.

Subjects to Think About

Ever wonder how simple we’d have to make things if we met a truly alien civilization?

After all, nothing would serve as a common reference.  The whole concept of “subject” or even “study” could be foreign to them.

So, if I had to tell a truly alien culture about our own, how would I divide up all the crazy areas of study that are in the course guides of colleges?

I’d do it like this.

There are three great areas that humans enjoy learning about.

The first deals with thinking about “Things.”  Things can be anything, like rocks, planets, stars, minerals, chemicals, frogs.  Anything that is a thing all gets put into one great bucket of study.  We typically call the king of these types of studies, Physics.  But frogs and other living things present a problem, so I’ll accept Biology as a special subset of Physics.

Then there are entire areas of learning in which humans think about “Not Things.”  It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but the greatest of all Not-Things is the study of Math.  Mathematics is a form of incredible rigorous thinking that is the best of all ways to describe the universe of Things.  It has many subsets, but Math is certainly the grandest of them all.  Other areas like linguistics and anthropology could be in there as well.

As promised, there is one final area of learning that concerns humans.  It’s not very rigorous in any way, so much of the work in this area is confusing to everyone, especially the experts.  It’s thinking about Thinking.  Yes, it’s the one and only self-referential area of study, and the king of this type of study is called Philosophy.

Anyone who tries to impress you (or the aliens) with fancy philosophy names or terms is missing the point of this entire area of study.  If it’s a real area, something that is legitimate, then famous people or crazy definitions aren’t necessary.  Much like saying gravity is everywhere, or 1 + 1 can become 2, we should be able to state fundamental elements of Philosophy.  We’re not quite there yet.

My fear is that when we do meet those aliens, and we do tell them what we study, they are going to laugh and go back to where they came from.

After all, if the entire universe can be boiled down into three basic areas of study, and we only have a partial hold on two of them, how can we be ready to join the galactic neighborhood?

We should think about that.




Story Time: Small Wives Tales


Studying behavior is fun.  We can do thought experiments based on real-life observations of fact.

and a short story.

Consider this fact: women are smaller than men.  This is sexual dimorphism, the genders are splitting apart.  Most species have males and females about the same size.  When they are different, it means something’s going on.  Something having to do with natural selection.  Here’s a thought experiment story that takes the phenomenon to the extreme.

=====  A booth in a shabby diner, late morning.  =====

Yo, Joh, why so late?

The third wife was upset, and the other two said I had to help calm her down.  She’s got some bug up her butt about the kid, so I had to listen to her whine before I could leave.

You’re such a nice hubby.  Why don’t you get another one?

Are you kidding?  Three’s the limit for me.  What about you, you stopping at two?

No, I could use a third one.  Having two means they fight among themselves, and I have to break it up all the time.  I hear having a third, and maybe even a fourth keeps them mixed up enough so it takes a lot of pressure off.

You’re both crazy.  Why not just stick with the one and train her the way you want?

Like in the olden times?  What are you, a Neanderthal?  You know how many of those marriages went bust?  No, what those biologists figured out was perfect.  This way each wife has less of a man to make her crazy, she has more women friends to hang with keeping the pressure off him, and he ends up with more sex, while each of them ends up with less.  Win win win win win.

Still, I’m pretty happy with my one.  She’s got everything I need, and we seem to work well together.

Sure, youngster, keep telling yourself that.  It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper, isn’t it?  But it takes all types.

Why do you think women were smaller than men anyway?  There was a time they were only 10% smaller, now they are 25% smaller.

Perfect for carrying under your arm.

Or stuffing in your pants!  (Everyone laughs.)

Look, a long time ago the women were almost the same as men.  About the same size, about the same brain, small breasts, just as hairy.

Then something changed.

Yeah, we don’t know what.  Some eggheads think it was the women that did it to themselves, but maybe the men did it.  Anyway, the women got smaller, got boobs, and started painting themselves all over.

Don’t forget the sex part.

Right, then something happened to both genders so that having sex hardly ever makes a baby.  So it’s fun to do.

Very fun.

How much fun you having with the one?


I thought so.

C’mon.  After breakfast, we’ll do some shopping for you.  Then we’ll fix that ancient Camaro of yours.

Thanks.  So how about that game last night?

Great Moments in Biology

We took a pleasant walk through our park, and at the worst possible time my nose required tending.

I’m used to this, because my nose is old, and large, and needs a lot of maintenance.  I keep a box of tissues in every room of the house.  Truly.  In some rooms there are more than one.  My nose can demand attention so fast I have about two seconds to respond.  And being my nemesis (my NOSE-asis?) it usually demands attention when I have both hands carrying something important, something cooking, and someone talking to me.

Technically, a complex polysaccharide.

Back to the stroll.  As I’m fumbling about for the tissues I carry SOMEWHERE on my person, I realize that perhaps I’m much maligning my nose.

After all, the slime my nose produces is a rather old biological invention.  Fish couldn’t swim without it.  (What about aquaman?)  Bacteria couldn’t thrive without it,  Our lungs stay clean because of it.

In fact, as I pondered my spent tissue, slime may be among some of the greatest biological inventions of all time.

Sure, you have sex, and bilateral symmetry.  But slime?  So simple, yet so many uses.

Here’s a bit of a mind-bender.  Since our ancient ancestors were fishy things, and those fishy things probably also used slime, it may be that our lungs and noses represent the parts of our biology that are still fishy!  (Just like eyeballs, but that’s another story.)

True, it may also be the buggy part of our biology, but I’d rather be related to a fish than a bug.

That’s all for today.  Gotta go fast.  Nose calls.