Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hopkins proves link between connective tissue disorders and allergies

This is very big, and very interesting, especially in regards to our family history. A Johns Hopkins study has found that transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), the growth hormone that’s the direct cause of Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) and a partial cause of Marfan syndrome, has been proven to influence immune system development, as well. This explains the link between Marfan/LDS and chronic allergies, as well as a common genetic root to allergies, connective tissue disorders, and autoimmune diseases-varying based upon other genetic factors, environment, etc. (for instance, Marfan and LDS are caused by different genes that influence TGF-beta). While the article doesn’t mention Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), it is also found to be associated with allergies and food allergies.
The study involved patients with chronic allergies who both did and did not have comorbid Marfan or LDS. All were found to have a defect in one or more of the genes responsible for TGF-beta, though other genes were involved in manifestations of specific conditions.
One of the take homes: Hopkins is now looking into whether the Losartan family of drugs, which have proven effective in Marfan and LDS–may also be effective in treatment of allergies. It also gives credence to anecdotal evidence that EDS sufferers find improvement in their overall symptoms by taking Zyrtec and Zantac.


People Can Treat Liturgy Mindlessly Regardless of What Language It’s In

One of the most common arguments *against* Latin in the Liturgy is that “People pray[ed] mindlessly” or “People didn’t understand what was going on.” The latter is easily refuted in that the average layperson today doesn’t understand what’s going on at Mass, and that The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium] (paragraph 54, I believe) provides that efforts are to be taken to better educate the laity in the “mother tongue” of the Roman Church, so that we can better participate.
In any case, I once saw the specific example given of nuns chanting the Divine Office in Latin and “mindlessly” reciting the instructions like “Hic non dicitur Glória Patri, neque Amen” (“Do not recite the Glory to the Father or Amen here”) at the end of the “Benedicite”. This comes to mind every time I hear similar things when the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed in English, even by the fine folks at, and someone either reads the instructions, recites something that’s meant to be silent, or introduces the reading by saying something like, “A reading from 1 Peter” or “A reading from Hebrews 12:22-24” instead of “A reading from the First Letter of St. Peter” or “A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.”

Why I rarely watch TV News

When I was in ICU, one of the [male] nurses enjoyed talking about politics. During April, when I was suffering ICU psychosis, and various side effects of the aortic surgery with multiple follow-up procedures, his talks filtered through my dreams and hallucinations. Ironically, I had him as an avid Obama supporter, when, after I “woke up,” I found out the opposite was true. My parents, when discussing my “profession,” focused on my blogging and freelance writing, while, when I was more able to communicate (by typing), I would explain that I *was* a blogger and freelance writer, but that I was also a retired-on-disability college English instructor, which impressed them just as much without giving them the impression that I was some famous journalist. 🙂
Anyway, before I was able to use a laptop and type messages to the nurses, but unable to speak due to a combination of a paralyzed vocal cord and a trachyostomy, they would often have conversations “with me” that basically amounted to using me as a sounding board or presuming my answers based upon what they knew of me from my parents and my wife (such as that I have a pro-life blog).
So one day, this particular nurse was talking about politics with another nurse, and he said, in a friendly manner, “What channel do you like to watch, John? Fox News?” I shook my head “no.” I forget if it was a day or two before I got the laptop, or I just wasn’t able to type at that particular juncture, but later that day, or a day or two after, I referred to that question and typed that I have a policy against watching TV news, even on EWTN, because it just raises my blood pressure: I prefer to read my news online where I can get multiple sources and respond to them. I’ll *read* _The Huffington Post_ or _The Guardian_ or whatever (except the NYT, which still charges for articles), but at least I can write responses in comboxes, on FB or on my blog, He said something like, “Fair enough.”
I would always teach my students that there’s no such thing as a completely “credible” source: credibility is a continuum, and no source is truly “unbiased.” Without naming names or denominations or issues, I would give the example of the time a prominent religious leader (Cardinal Mahony) was given an award for a particular political position (pro-life), and an activist crashed the banquet, passing out flyers listing the politicians on the other side (Democrats) he supported. The activist came to the mic and demanded an explanation of how he could support that position and support its opponents [having exemplified how I avoided “naming names,” I will now do so for clarity]. Mahony came up and took the microphone from the activist. All sources agree that the microphone made contact with the activist’s chin. The liberal Catholic publications like _Commonweal_ said he “accidentally bumped” the activist, while the conservative publications said that Mahony “hit” the activist with the microphone.
I made the decision not to watch TV news during the 2 weeks in the hospital after my aortic dissection in January 2011. The cable at Emory didn’t have EWTN (not surprisingly), and I laid there doing a lot of channel flipping. Everything was pretty much news or sports (which I don’t like, partly because of how angry people get over them) or “police procedurals.” Everything was upsetting. I would put on the news for a few minutes and see my blood pressure rise. Then I would put on some show like _Law & Order_ and see my blood pressure rising. I decided it wasn’t worth it. Television should be relaxing, not upsetting.

6 months before that, I read _Fahrenheit 451_. In the edition I had, there was an afterword in which Bradbury reflects on the text some decades later, explaining how he wrote it, discussing the accuracy of his predictions (which today have proven even more accurate), etc. He wrote the book originally in the 1940s, when television was still a new and relatively rare technology (equivalent to PC’s 40 years ago or smart phones 10 years ago). He said the danger of television, versus books (and, i would say, today’s Internet), is that it makes you sit there and take in what they’re saying, regardless of what they’re saying. He said you can “argue with” a book/magazine/newspaper–“throw it across the room,” take notes, write in the margins, write a letter to the editor/author, etc.–but television is a passive medium that just makes you sit there and either accept it or get angry.
6 months later, I realized how true that is. On another hospital visit related to my thoracic descending aneurysm, I was in an ER transition room with a TV and no remote, waiting for admission to the hospital for overnight observation. Someone had put the TV on A&E, and I was stuck watching _Criminal Minds_ or some such show. In one episode, a poor lady kidnap victim was depicted tied up, half-naked, crying and struggling for her life. That’s *just* what I wanted to watch while in the hospital for cardiovascular observation. So I turned away from the TV and did my best to pray a rosary, and I think I fell asleep. Next thing I knew, a different episode was on, so I thought I’d give it a chance. This time, a little boy was chasing another child through the woods with a baseball bat, and then beat him or her to death, right there on screen: again, just what I wanted to watch at that juncture, or *ever*. Why do people enjoy being so disturbed? I understand the appeal of a mystery show–it’s one of my favorite genres–and the thrill of seeing the criminals get their comeuppance, but why do we need to see the gory details?
Same is true of TV news. It’s all about getting people unnecessarily upset.

The Zimmerman trial should have been about Parental Permissiveness

I have learned more about the Zimmerman/Martin case in the last 39 hours than the last 16 months, since I try to avoid such cases. First, I don’t understand why this is about “racism”: I see some punk comes down the street, mall concourse, or wherever wearing “gangsta” attire (e.g., a hoodie, which in particular obscures his face), with that distinct swagger, etc., and I get scared. I don’t care what the color of his skin is, how old he is, or even if the person’s a “he” or a “she.” What gets me, though, is that, if Trayvon was the innocent helpless child they’re making him out to be, what in the blazes (literally) were his “parents” (specifically, his father and his father’s fiancee in this case) doing allowing him out alone at night to go *anywhere*, much less “buy a pack of Skittles”? The parents should be charged with criminal neglect, but that notion is offensive to 99% of Americans because they see no problem with Trayvon’s behavior (not that it necessarily warranted killing him), or the fact that his parents were divorced, which should itself be a horrible scandal (even if the divorce was justified).

Yes, I think this case really speaks to my own qualms about the popular interpretation of the Second Amendment. Do I think Martin was likely up to no good? Yes. Do I think Zimmerman shot him in self defense? Yes. Do I think Zimmerman was looking for a fight? Yes. Do I think it’s a good idea to have a neighborhood watch and have somebody who’s willing to try and *prevent* crime versus waiting for it to happen? Absolutely. Should that person carry a gun? I don’t think so, not when a baseball bat would do for most cases (and if a baseball bat wouldn’t suffice, a gun wouldn’t, either).

Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be about race, guns or anything but the over-permissiveness of parents in this country. Why is a 17 year old a “child” when it’s convenient to liberals? Homosexual priests molest 16 and 17 year-olds and are accused of being “child molesters” to avoid identifying them as “homosexuals,” and now a 17 year old high on marijuana is an “innocent child”?

“Why should I bless you? Your sons are in jail because of your permissiveness.”–St. Pio, to a couple who asked for a blessing because they were distressed over their two sons’ imprisonment.

However, according to the same people who are calling Trayvon Martin an “innocent child,” teenagers are supposed to be permitted to have sexual relations before the legal age of consent, be given free contraceptives and free abortions without parental consent, be permitted to engage in statutory rape with impunity, etc.
A 17 year old can have a driver’s license. An 18 year old can serve in the military and vote, and liberals argue that 18 year olds should be allowed to drink alcohol. It’s like the same “logic” applied to abortion: an infant at 36 weeks’ gestation is a “blob of tissue” and “part of the woman’s body” 5 minutes before birth. A “17 year old” is an “innocent child,” but an 18 year old is a “responsible adult.”

Nonsense from “Catholics for Choice”

An ad printed in the _Austin-American Statesman_:

Where to start with their “reasoning”? First, as “Catholics,” they should know that bodies are not separate from souls, and therefore are not objects to be “owned.” Then they should realize that their bodies are not “their own” but the Lord’s. Third, what about the baby’s rights?
What does abortion have to do with “medical coverage” and “proper care”?
“I do not want someone telling me that I may or may not have children.”
Problem: once an abortion is being considered, you already have a child. You’re just choosing whether to kill him or her, so why not wait till after the kid’s born? Why do a few inches make the difference in whether a child has rights?

“I believe that no politician or pope has any business controlling . . . . ”
As soon as those words come out of your mouth, as far as the “Pope” part, you’re not a Catholic anymore.
“I am prochoice because I don’t believe that government or someone else’s religion. . . . ”
So, in other words, you’re admitting that Catholicism is someone else’s religion.