Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Ruby on Rails: Thoughts by a Former Python Fanatic

13 May 2005

I read some critiques of Ruby on Rails today—and I’m not sure some of the people weren’t just missing some of the point.
Programmers tend to forget how inaccessible programming is. Even seasoned programmers occasionally do the bang-head-against-desk thing while trying to figure out how to overcome the limitations of some new thing.
Ruby on Rails is accessible to many who wouldn’t otherwise learn a web application framework. Even if it isn’t sliced bread (couldn’t say, haven’t learned it), it at least teaches concepts that could be useful.
Ian Bicking had some interesting comments about Python. I’ll admit: even though I love Python, it’s never the first tool I reach for for web work. It’s often the first tool I reach for for other work.
A lot of Pythonistas were never taken with Zope. People learned to love/hate Python because of Zope, but rarely the other way around. I’m one of the people who never twigged on Zope. I gave it only a half-hearted try, granted.
I overcame my initial dislike of Java to learn WebObjects, and I learned (some) XSLT in order to generate PDFs. So, like many, I come to the language as a result of the framework, not the other way around.
One of the other people mentioned Myghty, which I confess I hadn’t heard about before. Even so, none of the examples I perused had any database access (and thus missed the point). Further, this shows exactly the sort of problem I hated with mod_python. Compare the sort of httpd.conf used for Ruby on Rails here.
As far as I’m concerned, Rails is so much more maintainable in that regard it’s not even funny.

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Some Random Thoughts on Zonulin

12 March 2005

About a week ago, some of the research into zonulin came into my field of view [1]. I hadn’t been keeping up on celiac research, so the five-year-old news that they’d discovered a protein that regulates intestinal permeability [2] had quite escaped me.

In short, high levels of zonulin make the intestine more permeable, allowing stuff that shouldn’t get into the body to get there. The study points out that there are high levels of zonulin in people with four autoimmune diseases: celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and insulin-dependent diabetes. (One side effect of this research is that celiac seems to have been promoted to a genuine autoimmune disease rather than a quasi-autoimmune disease, but I digress.)

It’s also possible that said stuff is mis-recognized by the immune system and triggers the auto-immune diseases in the first place, rather than just making them worse. Which, of course, leads to the question about how the zonulin levels got elevated so that the entire mess occurred in the first place.

I tried to read some recent papers on zonulin (having Medline access), but unfortunately immunology papers are simply beyond my ken for the most part — they’re not really written in English.

I was pondering what the role of zonulin was — clearly, the most obvious advantage to being able to change intestinal permeability is avoidance of starvation. At some short-term (and possibly critical) gain, one may cause long-term effects. No great shocker there.

So, my brain then went on to the issue of dieting (being obese and all). It’s fairly well-known that excess dieting may make it much more difficult to lose weight. So what if that’s one of the things that triggers high zonulin levels? I always felt like shit when I dieted, what if that’s literally true?

Let’s look for a minute into some of the known epidemiology of multiple sclerosis. Two to three times as many women as men get MS [3]. While not mentioned on said page, a fairly common trigger for women is pregnancy, though that’s certainly not the only trigger. Worldwide, one is far more likely to contract MS if one is raised further from the equator, which generally correlates to colder states. In colder climates, the body’s composition changes somewhat between summer and winter — which may trigger some kind of “starvation” signal, especially in women. My armchair hypothesis is that this is related to the increased zonulin levels found in MS patients.

On a different tack, one of the other things that occurred to me: what if some of the increases in obesity of Americans were coming from dietary changes that increased zonulin levels?

So, what does the recent research mean? They’ve found something that can inhibit excess intestinal permeability by finding a zonulin inhibitor. This is HUGE. Even if it doesn’t fully prevent the damage of the four aforementioned autoimmune diseases, consider the possibilities in obesity control: no longer will people feel compelled to remove part of the intestine to control digestion in obese patients.

I suspect that the number of obese patients who have genuine metabolic disorders, if one considers intestinal permeability a metabolic disorder (which it should be), is much higher than previously suspected. This research opens the door to an answer.

To me, anything that could help reduce the effects of several autoimmune diseases and obesity, well, that sounds like the kind of Grand Unified Theory that could win a Nobel prize.

[1] http://www.msrc.co.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=show&pageid=984

[2] http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/zonulin.html

[3] http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Sourcebook-Epidemiology.asp

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Mac Mini Bag

16 February 2005

Since the Mini was announced, I’ve been coveting one.

Recently, Tom Bihn announced a bag for the Mini. Like their other bags, made in the USA, which I also appreciate.

From the product description, “Makes a sporty, albeit expensive, Bento Box as well.” Uh huh.

Pity they don’t have it in Plum.

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Waterfield bags

10 February 2005

After getting a case of bag envy last week seeing someone else’s Waterfield case, I again realized that my own computer bag — the second from same manufacturer — was falling apart. Grr.

So I went rummaging through the Waterfield site, looking for what I could afford. These are locally-made bags, but extremely well-made ones. Buying locally, especially in this day of outsourcing, is important to me. I like my neighbors to have jobs.

Eventually, I decided on a notebook sleeve, in part because I also had a working messenger bag that I could use to contain it. I opted for the flap. The decription doesn’t say it, but the flap is padded. I figured if I dropped it on that side, I’d appreciate any extra help the bag could offer.

I also opted for one of their iPod Gear Pouches in blue.

When I got the Gear Pouch and looked at it, I was amazed. There’s about as many pieces to it as to the typical jacket pattern, but it’s extremely well-made. The outside zip pocket also has two compartments, just exactly the size for my small (paper) notebooks. Inside, there’s enough room for my iPod, charger, my rather large cell phone (Nokia 3660), and my Plantronics Bluetooth headset. In fact, if I wanted to just take off for the day without a bunch of stuff, I could easily put my wallet in it and use it instead of a purse. Just me, my iPod, my phone, and proof that I exist.

I also haven’t yet mentioned the great emails letting me know that my order was on the way and asking me how I’d heard about them. And, you know, Gary answered. At 10:30 at night.

So, they’ve got my vote, but I’d rather the bags had less black. So far, that’s my only complaint, mitigated by the other color on the bags. But if they ever do a limited run in red or blue or something, I’ll buy everything all over again.

Review of the Cargo bag I’d like to have.

Review of the sleeve I bought.

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Have a Heart!

29 January 2005

I’m happy to hear that one of my friends, placed on the heart transplant waiting list in October, now has her heart transplant and is home from the hospital.

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Chugging along

28 December 2004

I haven’t been posting a lot, in part because I’ve been working on several gruelling tasks. The largest one is now about half done.

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Catch-22

21 December 2004

For once, I’m on the right side of a Catch-22.

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Wishing the best for Jack and Family

18 December 2004

Steven Chalker’s blog talks about what it’s like to be family of someone critically ill. In this case, noted writer Jack Chalker, one of the best sf/f writers in the business, as blogged by his son Steven.

Wish some good thoughts over to the Chalkers; the family (especially Jack) could all use them.

Steven, if it helps, I know several people who’ve been through congestive heart failure — all have gotten out of the hospital and kept going with their lives.

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Sleep, finally!

18 December 2004

Today’s the first day I’ve felt relaxed in I don’t know how long. At least since World Fantasy.

My brain’s in the mood to write a quirky little piece, but I’ve got another piece due.

Since my brain hasn’t been in the mood to write fiction for a while, I’m going to reward it by giving it an hour. Then off to finish the writing we must turn in.

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