the weirding way to better brain health

… or, “Kwisatz Haderacetylcholinergic Drug Alternatives”

This Rember drug that’s showing promising efficacy against Alzheimer’s is really pretty exciting. For a long time I’ve had blind faith that my generation wouldn’t have to face Alzheimer’s, at least not the way folks currently do. I was hopeful that the solution would arrive in time for our parents, too — now it looks like it might.

The story behind the drug is interesting. Naturally, Derek Lowe is the place to go for an informed perspective on the matter. He (and Wired) both note that Rember is actually a very old drug: Methylene Blue, which has been used for everything from malaria to psychiatric disorders to intestinal surgery. It’s got a long history and seems to be quite safe.

But it is very, very blue. And that leads to some side effects. From the Wikipedia article:

Methylene blue was used at the end of the century as a successful treatment for malaria. It disappeared as an anti-malarial during the wars in Asia, as U.S. soldiers disliked its two inevitable, fully reversible side effects: green urine and blue sclera.

Blue sclera — as in the used-to-be-whites of your eyes. So yes: grandma might remain mentally sharp, but she’s going to look like she just wandered off the set of Dune. Awesome.

Presumably the drug can be used synergistically with the Juice of Saphoo.

against Phil

I am on the record as being anti-Phil Collins. This puts me at odds with some good friends who have jumped wholeheartedly into the half-serious Collins renaissance that’s been plaguing our great land as of late. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s got legs given its likely provenance, which seems to me to clearly involve Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, This American Life and/or a need to sidestep mainstream America’s rededication to all things Journey. The SWPLishness of the situation is so glaring as to be embarrassing.

But it’s not just this specific musical throwback that worries me. Even though I enjoyed Yglesias’s 90s alt-rock party, I have to admit that the theme made me uneasy. I believe that as we get older the first muscles to lose tone are the ones that, when tightly clenched, produce a convincing sense of irony. Sure, listening to Silverchair might seem like a great idea now. But if you aren’t careful, before you know it you’ll be no different than your uncle who paid $120 for an obstructed view at an Eagles concert that starts at 5pm.

I’ll admit that the alternatives are grim. But I think there’s at least somewhat more dignity to be had by clinging tightly to Pitchfork’s Best New Music section and copies of Paste until the whole enterprise buckles and collapses under the weight of your teenage offspring’s embarrassed disavowals. Nostalgia is best left to people who’ve given up or are too young to have been there in the first place.

But I know that most people don’t find this very convincing. So let me try another tack: this past weekend Emily, Scooter, Lauren, Sommer, Jeff and I were at a bar in Philly — one of the few where you can still smoke, and therefore one that is certifiably cool. We headed upstairs, where we found a table and some DJs. These guys seemed authentically hip: sporting horrible beards and wraithlike t-shirts, they looked like emaciated bears that had staggered out of the woods and into a Salvation Army, where they constructed poor disguises before setting off to South Philly in search of PBR specials and/or salmon. It should have been a pretty good set, in other words.

Instead? Marcy Playground. Excusable, perhaps, for novelty value (which for some reason seems to be synonymous with “totally monotonous and unbearable”). But then they followed it up with Verve Pipe’s “The Freshman” and I knew we were doomed. The biggest hits from the darkest days of the 90s continued to issue from the speakers at an uncomfortable volume (to replicate the effect, turn your radio up and tune it to DC101).

Emily eventually saved us and, pouring on the charm, got them to turn down that dag-blasted racket — we were the only patrons in the room, so it seemed okay to ask. Despite our miraculous escape, the lesson should be clear: ironic musical nostalgia is too dangerous a force to be trusted to civilians. It can go so horribly, horribly wrong.

But I understand the impulse. Maybe it’s inescapable. For example, I can’t help but regard this as being among the most awesomely moody things I’ve ever seen:

And no, I can’t tell if I mean that ironically.

(Thanks to Jon for sending me that clip originally)

it’s that time of year…

Don’t miss Jason’s annual commentary on the Hill Hotties list. My favorite line:

“Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) is proof positive that a high school quarterback can marry his cheerleader girlfriend and live happily ever after.” Phew! Glad that’s been proven! It’s certainly an improvement over the quarterback who was proof positive that being a fake cowboy moron could only take you so far if you were a crypto-racist goon (George Allen).

Other highlights:

  • Andrew Savage: I totally know that guy. He’s good friends with Michael. I can’t say I’ve ever seen him make any furniture, but I suppose he could have slipped off to cut decorative scrollwork while I was in the bathroom at St. Ex.
  • Check out Otto Mucklo, then try to tell me with a straight face that you believe the bio when it says he’s not German. Otto! C’mon!

not only elitist and shameless — racist, too!

There’s a new credit card for Redskins fans. Along with the substantial joy to be had by having a custom logo in your wallet, it’ll give cardholders the ability to skip through clogged lines at Fedex Field… and at airport security.

It’s not like I had a lot of faith that the registered traveler program wouldn’t become horribly corrupted, compromised and ineffective. But I did think it’d take a little more time and sneaking around before we got to quite this level of tackiness.

more bars in more places, no matter what

I like to think I’ve got a healthily cynical outlook on these sorts of things, so I’m not sure why this never occurred to me:

The custom-rolled firmware from the US cellphone companies is also, of course, likely to tell fibs about signal strength. The telephony companies quickly realised that it’s much cheaper to sell phones that show lots of signal all the time than to actually bother putting up more of those expensive cell towers. And, once again, the signal strength is not the same as the call quality. Lots of signal plus lots of noise is not as good as a little bit of signal plus almost no noise at all.

That’s from the inimitable Dan Rutter, who, if you’re interested at all in technology, you really should be reading.

econ had better start working before someone gets hurt

Getting back from Philadelphia yesterday was not fun. I imagine it won’t surprise anyone to hear that the Chinatown bus has been getting more and more crowded as people respond to higher gas prices. What is surprising is how badly the bus industry is dealing with it. Are they running more buses? No. Raising ticket prices? No. They seem not to have noticed that anything’s different, in fact, despite everyone else managing to — yesterday there was even a young guy shooting footage and doing interviews for what I presume to be a short documentary about the situation.

And that situation is not good. Sommer, Jeff and I showed up around 4:30, intending to catch the 5:00 bus. The 4:30 was late, so we were in time for that, too (buses to DC only depart a few times during the day, but these two are scheduled close together). But a couple hundred other people were waiting, too. The two buses came, loaded and left for DC, but we weren’t able to make it onto either. Nor were a lot of other people. And it was nerve-wracking: the crowd was pushing and people were fighting. The situation wasn’t helped by new riders who seemed to feel they were entitled to physically bar others from boarding while their families and friends pushed up to the front of the crowd. Understandable, I guess, but dangerous.

At that point we decided we’d had enough and, after confirming that Greyhound wasn’t running another bus anytime soon, we headed to the train station. Amtrak, at least, has responded to the increased demand: they’ve jacked up their fares. That at least makes it easier to avoid being crushed to death, but it’s still hard to understand why bargain-basement rail travel costs six times as much as the bus. I mean, sure: infrastructure. Overhead. Better service. Relatively paltry public subsidies. But six times?

I hope that the bus companies begin to respond to the demand for this route soon. All the new players — Bolt, DC2NY, Megabus — run NYC/Philly and NYC/DC routes but, despite the NYC/DC bus assuredly passing through Philly to drop off passengers, they won’t let you book a trip that doesn’t include New York. As someone already prone to seething over New York City’s collective solipsism, it’s pretty infuriating to see half-empty buses leaving for the Big Apple on the half hour while people are risking serious injury jostling for a $15 seat to DC.

The Dark Knight

I realize that our national conversation about Batman is already more or less over, but the weighty responsibilities of internet citizenship can’t be shirked so easily. So: Emily and I went to see the new Batman movie on Friday, with Jason, Gen, Sarah and two nice folks who disappeared so quickly that I’m not sure they were ever there at all. Mr. and Ms. Soze, we’ll call them (now and then not again).

Emily hated it, and at the time this prompted me to stick up for the movie in an attempt to defend the institution of comic book adaptations. They’ve only grossed, what, a billion dollars this summer? Clearly this struggling art form needs our support.

But now, thinking about it some more, I have some complaints.

Here’s the thing about the Batman movie: I want to signal my approval. Christopher Nolan is clearly thinking about Batman in the right way; the actors associated with the franchise are all doing an excellent job of adapting an awkwardly large and sometimes-cartoonish mythology into a filmed perspective that is as realistic as is realistically possible. The basic thesis of the movie was a good one, too, and an appropriate arc for the second movie of a Batman reboot. The movie looks right, it sounds right, it moves right.

My only real problem with the film was everything that happens in it. Spoilers:


ha ha holy crap that’s horrible

Iraq has been banned from the Olympics. But take heart!

War and hardship, though, have not destroyed all of Iraq’s dreams for international competition. The country, which has been in three wars in two decades, has a robust Paralympic team.

“As a country that participated in many wars since 1980, we have many disabled people,” said Ahmed Abid Hassan, a wheelchair fencing coach. “Our Paralympic team is better than our Olympic team.”

That’s via last month’s New York Times (original source: the perpetual crushing horror of this world).


Morning Edition talked to the Hold Steady this morning, inconsiderately making me late to work. The interview’s a worth a listen, as is the additional online clip in which Craig Finn talks about playing with Springsteen and his affection for the song “Atlantic City”. That prompted me to go listen to the song again, which led me to this cover, which is really pretty nice. Go have a listen.

uncov, recovered

The only tech blog that matters shut down early this year, and after the traditional “does the blogger really mean it?” period I deleted the entry from my RSS reader.

But now, having just executed a botched subscription merge courtesy of the NetNewsWire iPhone app, Uncov has reappeared among my feeds. And, much to my surprise, it’s got new entries! It looks like Ted started posting again in April. Persai, the project that he was working on, has recently launched as PressFlip, and consequently the content is more about the new venture and Java programming than about eviscerating idiotic startups — for now, anyway. Give it time. If you’re feeling impatient, go read Ted’s Register column about Protocol Buffers for some of that old flavor.

Curiously, redirects to So the return of Uncov is… secret? Who knows, cares, or can be bothered to figure out the answer? The important thing is that the RSS feed is working, so you should go resubscribe to that.