Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Cartoon #200: “Cats Don’t Taste Sweets”

Title: Cats Don't Taste Sweets; Text: Garfield hears the news that cats can't taste sweets.

It looks like Garfield, the cartoon cat, will have to stick to lasagna from now on. In case he, or you, missed it, here is the synopsis of the article in the debut issue of the Public Library of Science online journal.

Although sweet sugars are ubiquitous in human foods, they are seldom added to cat food, and owners usually do not feed sweets to their cats.
This is because, in contrast to most other mammals, both domestic cats and their wild cousins, the big cats, do not show a preference for and, most likely, cannot detect sweet-tasting compounds. Other than this sweet blindness, the cat’s sense of taste is normal.

The molecular mechanism for this unique behavior towards sweets was not known, until now. Sweet compounds, including sugars and artificial sweeteners, are recognized by a special taste bud receptor composed of the products of two genes. The authors found that in cats, one of these genes is not functional and is not expressed. (It is called a pseudogene.)

Because the sweet receptor cannot be formed, the cat cannot taste sweet stimuli. During the evolution of the cats’ strictly carnivorous behavior, selection to maintain a functional receptor was apparently relaxed. This research provides a molecular explanation for the common observation that the cat lives in a different sensory world than the cat owner.

[Pseudogenization of a Sweet-Receptor Gene Accounts for Cats' Indifference toward Sugar, Public Library of Science, Vol. 1, No. 1, July, 2005, citing Li X, Li W, Wang H, Cao J, Maehashi K, et al. (2005) Pseudogenization of a Sweet-Receptor Gene Accounts for Cats' Indifference toward Sugar. PLoS Genet 1(1): e3]

Monday, July 25, 2005

Cartoon #199: “Lance Armstrong”

Title: Lance Armstrong; Text: (Yellow 'Livestrong' wristband twisted into helix symbol for infinity)

Texan Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the seventh year in a row, and secured his sports superhero status. July 24, 2005 began the post-Armstrong era of bicycle racing, and the long wait for his record to be bested, if ever. To signify Armstrong’s accomplishment, the millions who own one of his yellow “Livestrong” wristbands could twist it into a helix, the symbol for infinity.

It has been noted that were it not for Lance Armstrong, Jan Ulrich, Germany’s cycling phenom, would now have five consecutive Tour de France victories. Armstrong gave Ulrich a tip for winning the top spot. No, he didn’t suggest performance enhancing drugs. Noting that Ulrich gets better in the latter stages, Armstrong suggested that he show up in better shape at the beginning of the race. Duh.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cartoon #198: “James Doohan”

Title: James Doohan; Text: One to beam up. Aye aye, Scotty.

Actor James Doohan died of pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease on Wednesday, July 20, 2005 — the 36th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon. He played Montgomery (Scotty) Scott, Chief Engineer of the USS Enterpirse in the original “Star Trek” TV series, and when the show was resurrected as a movie series. It is his character that was immortalized in the household phrase, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Doohan, 85, was preceded in death by the show’s creator, Texan Gene Roddenberry in 1998, and actor DeForest Kelly in 2000. Kelly played Dr. Leonard (Bones) McCoy, Chief Medical Officer.

If you have ever been a “Trecker,” you have some inkling, at least, of the enormous cultural, literary, economic, and philosophical impact of Gene Roddenberry’s space adventure stories. For as long as we place relevance in Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon, there will be a place of literary honor for Gene Roddenberry, “Star Trek,” its characters, and the many theatrical professionals, like Doohan, who gave it a long and prosperous life. If any of this strikes you as trivial, perhaps it is time you got up to warp speed.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cartoon #197: “Karl Rove”

Title: Karl Rove; Text: (Karl Rove casting shadow of Nixon)

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, the most influencial presidential confidant since Texas kingmaker Edward Mandel House, began his career as an admirer of Richard Nixon. His career may end in a similar fashion to Nixon’s. Rove is at the center of questions and serious criminal investigations regarding the disclosure of a CIA operative’s name. Democrats, of course, have been all over this, salivating at the the impending fall of “George Bush’s Brain.” Rove deserves to be in jail for many reasons. This is not one of them. There is a larger trap being set here for liberals, progressives and people of good will. How? Why?

The law Rove is being accused of violating came into existence as a result of the exposure of criminal CIA agents in Philip Agee’s book of revelations about his own nefarious role in the CIA’s evil history. Having discovered his conscience, Agee did a good thing. The Nazi, neo-con, nutty, right-wing, police staters went ballistic. Those renegade, CIA criminal cowboys wanted and got this law making it a federal crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative. In their glee over Karl Rove having been caught violating a law he helped father, Democrats are falling into a trap of being hypocrits should they ever come to their senses again and oppose this fascist law.

Cartoon #196: “Rehnquist”

Title: Renquist; Text: (William Rehnquist being pulled offstage by hook)

On the heels of the announced resignation of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and amid rampant rumors that Supreme Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s resignation from the high court was imminent, Rehnquist actually did issue a statement on Bastille Day, 2005.

What he said, despite his apparently agressive thyroid cancer, was that he was not going anywhere. Rehnquist’s press release reminded us of the famous line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”: “I’m not dead yet!” It also reiminded us of the old schtick for removing someone from the stage - the hook.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cartoon #195: “London Olympics”

Title: London Olympics; Text: (London spelled with Olympic rings)
London was chosen as the site for the 2012 Olympics. New York claims not to be able to figure out why they lost the bid. The world was behind them after September 11, 2001. NYC wanted to use the Olympics to show that “the terrorists didn’t win.” But the world has become wary of the U.S.'s foreign policy goals since then. Why? The U.S. is widely viewed around the globe as slouching toward fascism. If you are one of many sheltered U.S. citizens who is unaware of this, do your homework. The world apparently does not wish a repeat of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Not that London would be that much better — especially if Tony “Quisling” Blair is still around.