Archive for June, 2005


If any of you use Firefox or Mozilla, go take a look at my slideshow. The username (to load the mp3) is slideshow and there’s no password. If you use IE, it’ll be a bit. I use a hell of a lot of javascript and I’m dealing with irritating scoping differences.

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I’m almost finished with a project. For some reason my capacity to focus is proportional to my distance from completion. That means that I’ve been mostly surfing the web today and doing a little programming. It is always something tangentially related, but not productive.

For instance, I just got through reading a very interesting slideshow (I’m working on a HTML slideshow) about the neurochemical processes involved in taking ecstasy. It is something I’ve been interested in because I know some people who are convinced that it’ll eat your brain while others consider it is a pretty safe drug. I’m wary about doing something that might eat my brain, so I’ve not been sure how I’d respond to the opportunity to take ecstasy. (Oh yeah, other than it being illegal and me not doing illegal things. Just hypothetically if it wasn’t illegal…)

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) simulates the release of, among other things, seratonin (5-hydroxytryptamine (5-ht)) in the brain. Seratonin is not normally released in really high levels and so there is not a huge supply of it on hand. This is why you can only take ecstasy once a week or so. If you take it more frequently, it will stimulate the release of seratonin, but the chemical simply isn’t present in your brain to be released. Continually lowered seratonin levels is also one theory as to why regular use can contribute to depression.

Seratonin is taken back into the brain cells that released, but once inside the majority of it is broken down by the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO). Your body then has to synthesize more over time. This is done using two enzymes, 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-htp) and decarboxylese. I recognized the tryptophan from the now out of favor theory on Thanksgiving turkey.

The last bit covered the actual possible causes for damage to the brain. One is that in the presence of significantly lowered seratonin levels, dopamine (4-(2-aminoethyl)benzene-1,2-diol (DA)) enters the cell and is toxic. It is also broken down by MAO and the resultant hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) can cause oxidation of the cell. Also, repeated overstimulation of the seratonin receptors can cause downregulation and thus a decreased sensitivity.

It is a fascinating piece of meat we carry around in our heads…

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Mauritania has been moving quite a bit in the last couple days.

The big news here is that an Islamic group in Algeria thought we weren’t Islamic enough and came over and killed 15 of our soldiers. I’ve not been able to find any reports of it online, but supposedly they were all beheaded.

Mauritania catches a lot of grief for being not Islamic enough. Maybe the “Islamic Republic” thing sets the bar too high. People complain of us having diplomatic ties to Israel. The Israeli embassy just put out a huge (10′) flag, which I thought was a bit ostentatious, but what they hey. Also, them being friendly with us is not popular with much of the Western world. I like this Ajazeera article bearing the damning caption, “Maaouya Ould Taya is a staunch American ally.” (They misspelt Maaouiya.)

I’ve been hearing rumors of Mauritania heading up through Mali to retaliate, but I can’t find any news of it. I’ll have to buy a paper on my way home.

Things have been a little more active than normal. The students wander around yelling from time to time now, and there’s a definite rise in graffiti. It’s all in Arabic though, so I’ve got no real clue what it’s about. There was a big protest march tonight and several of my students couldn’t get to class because the roads were blocked off. I need to find out what exactly was being protested. I think the marches against our change to a Saturday/Sunday (from Friday/Saturday which it was since the 70’s) have finally tapered off. People are like the French here. You’ve got to seriously piss Americans off before they take to the streets and start wandering around waving signs. You just need some bad croissants to get the French up in arms.

I don’t want to make it sound like things are going crazy or anything. They’re not. People are all still really friendly to me and I get lots of “American good” responses to queries as to my nationality. As is often the case it is a small group of vocal people causing trouble. It just makes for good gossip.

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Well, we got the EcoDev page done today. I’ve been working on it with another volunteer for about a month now. It feels good to be able to check a project off the list. That doesn’t happen all that often. I’ve worked about twenty four hours in the previous two days on the slideshow project, but it still doesn’t work. I want to get it going for our new invitees who are coming in next month.

I think I’m going to hang around a bit longer, but try to avoid leaving at 2am, like the last two nights. Being at work all the time has made me quite anti-social as of late. I’ve been feeling productive though and I hate to waste it.

Anywho, back to work…

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