Food for Thought?

Food for Thought?

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.

 Veslius CNS and PNSOur gastrointestinal (GI) tracts are home to billions of microbes.  Microbiologists have known for a long time our guts are well colonized, but the full complexity and importance of the GI microbiome was recognized only recently.  Around 1,000 different bacterial species may reside in this part of our bodies during the course of our lives (1).

The microbial universe hidden within us exerts major impacts on our physiology, development and perhaps much more (1,2).  Gut microbes produce neurotransmitters (1) which may influence diverse activities such as cognitive function, social interactions and adaptive responses to stress (1,3,4).  However, communications flow in both directions.  The brain is hardwired into the GI tract directly by the vagus nerve and may modulate microbial activities through several mechanisms (4,5,6).  Animal studies have shown that the composition and metabolic activities of the gut microbiome are sensitive to stress (5) and disrupting it may produce serious consequences.

Aging and low fiber diets impoverish the gut microbiome (7,8).  These observations invite speculation that modern day eating habits are promoting a broad range of pathologic conditions including age-related frailty (7).  It literally gets worse – experiments with rodents suggest gut microbiome diversity may drop with each new generation (8).  Perhaps our diets have accidentally driven the microbial symbionts essential for robust health to extinction and hastened the onset of maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or worsened their impacts (9).

Although to this point most of the experiments manipulating GI microbiomes have been conducted in rodents, the implications for human health could clearly be staggering (10).  We share our microbial passengers with others through casual contact, could some conditions regarded as purely mental (brain) diseases actually be contagious?  Persons who maintain social interactions in old age seem more likely to avoid AD.  Maybe the long noted cognitive benefits of social engagement are partially due to periodic re-inoculation with essential bacteria that would otherwise be lost with aging and physical isolation.  The GI microbiome is dynamic and perhaps one day physicians will maintain and promote mental wellbeing by prescribing ‘psychobiotics’- probiotic microbe-containing supplements analogous to foods like yogurts (10, 11).

GI microbiome research is currently in the unbounded optimism phase.  Fecal transplants are being used to help patients recover from severe Clostridium difficile infections of the GI tract (12).  OpenBiome, a non-profit organization, now distributes healthy donor fecal samples in pill form to facilitate treatment and research.  Undoubtedly amazing new insights and some novel approaches to improve human health are in the offing.  Although companies are moving ahead quickly (11) scientists are attempting to manipulate still largely unexplored living ecosystems and not every good idea is sure to become a miracle cure.   The efforts to eradicate C. difficile infections provide an instructive example.  While fecal transplants have produced remarkable benefits, how they work is still unknown and recent clinical trials of similar strategies have produced disappointing outcomes (13).  Medical issues like obesity and AD are equally or more complex and it seems likely that improved diets and probiotics will be only one facet of correspondingly complicated future management strategies.


Why we’re here. We founded OpenBiome, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, after watching a friend and family member suffer through 18 months of C. difficile and 7 …


(1)   T. G. Dinan et al.  2015.  Collective Unconscious: How Gut Microbes Shape Human Behavior.  Journal of Psychiatric Research 63:1-9.
(2)   E. P. J. G. Neis et al.  2015.  The Role of Microbial Amino Acid Metabolism in Host Metabolism. Nutrients 7:2930-2946.
(3)   P. A. Smith.  2015.  The Tantalizing Links Between Gut Microbes and the Brain.  Nature 14 October 2015, (526:312-314).
(4)   S. Reardon.  2014.  Gut-brain Link Grabs Neuroscientists. Nature, 12 November 2014, (515:175-177).
(5)   E. A. Mayer et al.  2014.  Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience.  The Journal of Neuroscience 34(46):15490-15496.
(6)   C. Schmidt.  2015.  Thinking From the Gut.  Nature, 25 February 2015, (518:S12-S15).
(7)   P. W. O’Toole and I. B. Jeffery.  2015.  Gut Microbiota and Aging.  Science 350:1214-1215.
(8)   K. H. Courage.  2016.  Your Poor Diet Might Hurt Your Grandchildren’s Guts.  Science 13 January 2016.
(9)   S. Bhattacharjee and W. J. Lukiw.  2013.  Alzheimer’s Disease and the Microbiome.  Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 7:153.
(10)  L. Sanders.  2016.  Microbes Can Play Games with the Mind.  Science News, 23 March 2016.
(11)   S. Reardon.  Microbiome Therapy Gains Market Traction.  Nature, 13 May 2014, (509:269-270).
(12)   P. A. Smith.  2015.  Fecal Transplants Made (Somewhat) More Palatable.  The New York Times, 9 November 2015.
(13)   R. Cross.  2016.  Poop Pill’s Surprising Failure Shows that the Microbiome is Still a Mystery. MIT Technology Review, 29 July 2016.




The Soundtrack of Living Mystery

Jaylon Productions, LLC

Living Mystery Poster

Aloha, Everyone. Just want to take a moment to thank Joe Gooch for producing two songs for the Living Mystery Symposium. Joe was instrumental (literally and figuratively) in adding to the ever-evolving Paratopia soundtrack over the years and created the theme song to The Experience. He is an endless creative force and a friend. Although he cannot make the symposium this year, he’ll be here in spirit and in song. Check them out!

awakening – by Joe Gooch

Living In The Mystery – by Joe Gooch

Mahalo, Joe!

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Is Gene Steinberg A Fraud?


Gene Steinberg

Fraud. That’s a strong word. Defined in the search engine as “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain,” one wonders if this applies to The Paracast host Gene Steinberg, a man who has been begging his audience, his guests, his co-hosts, and his email list to pay all of his bills and rent for the past 10 years as a form of charity for an evolving set of excuses that tend to evoke pity. His begging is well-chronicled. The letters he sends to his email list are often cut and pasted haphazardly, as if even that is too much work. And there’s this underlying expectation that this is how things should be, like in this letter from 08/08/2016 titled, A Brief Stay, But Time Is Short, where Gene writes, “If you can assist me in getting through this crisis, I’d really appreciate it more than I can say. If you’ve already done your share, just tell me and I won’t annoy you again.” In fact, this one sentence encapsulates what is wrong with the last ten years of begging letters. Let’s unpack it.

“If you can assist me in getting through this crisis….”

Everyone with a heart wants to assist in a crisis. Heck, Jeff Ritzmann and I helped raise donations for Gene years and years ago on Paratopia, before we realized there was no crisis that couldn’t be solved by Gene getting a job. But he’s made it clear that he will not. First excuse was the bad economy, which worked for a while because there was actually a bad economy. But as Gene tells it, the economic recovery brought not one job for which he is qualified to his home state of Arizona. He has told us he’s moved to different towns within Arizona in the last 10 years. None of them have work. All of the potential employers on down to the convenience stores and fast food chains are discriminating against him based on his age. For 10 years. Now that the economy is bouncing back, he talks about how hard it is to get a job in the summer. What about the winter? Spring? For 10 years?

What, then, is he doing to make money? Podcasting. It seems he’s put all of his eggs in that basket. It’s difficult to make money through podcasting let alone make a living. But here he is telling us he’s working hard, always on the cusp of success but never quite there, if we can just continue to subsidize his life for a little bit longer… little bit longer. He’s the leech drummer boyfriend with a band and a dream and we’re the enabler girlfriend with high hopes and low self-esteem funding his weed-fueled X-Box sessions.

What about social services? Apparently, there are none of those either. Not for him. Not for his wife. The State of Arizona is also ageist, not just the private sector. There is no welfare for Gene Steinberg, no food stamp program, no Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefit that keeps him away from GoFundMe.

What about his son? Can’t his family help? No, no–it’s on you. And that would be fine–would not sound suspiciously like fraud–if he just asked for money because he felt he deserved to get paid from his podcast audience. Nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t bring in the big bucks. The thousand-dollar donors rarely come out for anything but a crisis. If I remember correctly, Gene’s “crisis” used to be that he gave all of his life savings to a family member to pay attorney fees for a lawsuit. His family won and so he was due to recoup his money and pay the donors back. It wasn’t charity, it was a loan. But that payday never came for him or for those kindhearted people who loaned him money.

What happened to those loans? His wife gave their bank account info to a Nigerian scammer and they all got wiped away. So the next crisis was needing all of that money all over again.

Then came the mounting electric bills.

Then his wife’s knee surgery.


Dental surgery.

Then came rent.

Then it kept on coming.

And it wasn’t a loan, it was for keeps. This is where we are now. Gene and his wife are perpetually on the verge of being evicted from their home. They just need a little more… a little more… because they have this demanding “slumlord” who, I take it, is such because he’s demanding they pay their rent the way Gene demands you pay his. But isn’t this slumlord a different person than the landlord from the last home they had to vacate in 2012? This eviction thing isn’t new, is it? It gets confusing after a while and you’ll be forgiven if you forgot that it has happened before.

“If you’ve already done your share….”

He’s written (or pasted) this a number of times in his crisis emails through the later years. Done your share? Your share of funding his life? Is there a Steinberg Tax hiding somewhere in the code? It’s this type of arrogance–this expectation that you will give him money–that it’s your turn–that really makes me wonder if this is a long con.

“…just tell me and I won’t annoy you again.”

I am not on Gene’s email list, but I get his missives forwarded to me by others who have

Gold Standard Gym

Also Gene Steinberg (courtesy of John Randall)

tried to get off it and can’t. This has been a chronic complaint for years: you try to unsubscribe from Gene Steinberg’s entitlement poverty crisis acting, but the letters keep coming.

I don’t know if these crisis events are real or not, but after 10 years of refusing to get a job, and with no significant podcasting revenue in sight, it is fair to say that begging is Gene’s career. There are homeless people in India who will lob off appendages for greater sympathetic coin. Gene may be their American counterpart, living in such a way that the crises are real but they are of his own making, one after another after another so that there is no choice but to fund him to keep him and his wife from going homeless. (Although that is the whole of the analogy, as the poverty in India is real.)

In an email letter dated 08/10/2016 titled Closer To Success, Gene begs for money for just about every moving expense imaginable, including a cleaning fee. In the middle, he makes a hopeful promise: “Once everything is paid up, though, I expect to be able to keep the rent payments up to date each month.”

Really? How? Did he find work? Did his wife? Has some rich benefactor come to his aid? Whatever his newly found steady stream of income, I was kind of glad to read this. Maybe this is all real, I thought. Maybe there’s an end in sight. If not for Gene’s follow-up email two days later titled So Close and Yet So Far, I would never have written this blog post. In it, after much of the same begging, he retracts his promise: “I won’t say I’ll be completely past this financial nightmare once we’re settled in our new home. I may still need a little help from time to time. But I’m working real hard to boost cash flow to keep this from ever happening again.”

Oh. I see. The begging goes on. The crisis morphs again. Another ten years goes by. A sucker is born every minute. But you don’t have to be one of them. In fact, thanks to the work of Tyler Kokjohn, we now have a list of agencies in Gene’s area that may be able to help Gene with all of his misfortunes, provided they are not ageist. Instead of sending Gene your money to help boost his cash flow, consider sending him these links.


The link below takes you to the Maricopa County emergency assistance program web page.  This links to resources for homeless persons, or those at risk of becoming homeless, but if you notice the county also helps with energy bills and other issues.



In the past, to speak these facts out loud was to invoke Gene’s ire in private emails and in the comments section of any blog or forum where he found his poverty questioned. He’s got plenty of time to defend himself even while being evicted. Ultimately, what he says is, “Shut up. It’s none of your business.” Here’s where I disagree. Gene is a person who calls out ufologist frauds on his show. He wants to run the UFO Watchdog Hall of Shame, where he judges the fraudulent from the decent. But who is watching the watchdog? And how can he afford to juggle another unpaid, time-consuming hobby in such dire crisis?

None of it adds up. Be weary of adding to it… which should be the closer for this but as I was about to click the publish button, I heard that friendly phone jingle telling me I’ve got email. And in that email is the latest from Gene, just published, titled, Waiting for a Monday Miracle!

I’m not reading it. I’ve read it before. We all have. You shouldn’t either. Time to let this bird fly on his own.