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All right. It’s Thanksgiving Eve and thousands of geek bodies are relatively tryptophan free before the big day. Sir Frederick Hopkins, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of vitamins, was the first person to isolate the standard amino acid in 1901. Since then, tryptophan has been discovered to be a precursor for serotonin, melatonin and niacin by the scientific community, and is often purported as being a precursor to periods of drowsiness and, in some cases, naps, by the Thanksgiving community.

Now, it *is* true that large amounts of Tryptophan *can* have adverse effects on humans. Things like Eosinophilia-myalgia-syndrome, aka EMS, which includes symptoms such as severe muscle pain, fatigue, nerve pain, hair loss, a rash, and dry thickened skin, have been potentially linked to large intake of L-Tryptophan dietary supplements. Serotonin syndrome can also be a risk, signs of which include confusion, hallucinations, a fast heartbeat, feeling faint, a fever, sweating, muscle spasms and difficulty walking. Before you roust your elderly uncle from the armchair en route to the hospital, know that the levels of tryptophan in turkey are typical of most poultry
and that foods like chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, fish, eggs, spirulina and even peanuts are just as high in tryptophan as turkey, if not higher. The amount of turkey you would have to eat to near tryptophan toxicity is scary, with most cases of EMS being reported by those taking large amounts of tryptophan as a health supplement. In fact the Annals of Pharmacotherapy report the main treatment method of EMS as the discontinuation of tryptophan ingestion. So if you start to experience sudden hair loss and feel faint of heart, put the turkey leg down.

Having been misinformed as to the actual severity of the Tryptophan threat, HAL-PC has cancelled a number of Special Interest Group meetings this weekend. On Thursday, both the Laptop Investors and the A+ Skills and Drills meetings have been canceled. Friday’s PC Upgrade and Troubleshooting SIG has been shot, and the Microsoft Server SIG has crashed. New Members will be left disoriented later that evening, and on Saturday the GETTraders will have gotten elsewhere. The Linux SIG has not been canceled, but will be offline from two to four Saturday afternoon for a scheduled maintenance window, thus preserving their precious up time. And while autonomous robots are welcome to show up for the Robotics SIG, the humans will not be there to let them in. Hit www.hal-pc.org for a full schedule of canceled events.

The following Monday and Tuesday are the fifth of each in the month, so there’s really not much going on in terms of tech meet-ups for nearly another week. All the true tech action will be carried out in the shopping carts of web surfers around the nation on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The National Retail Federation reported that 96.5 million Americans shopped online last Cyber Monday compared to just 79 million of their brick-and-mortar counterparts the black Friday before. If you do plan to get in on the online action this year, try to do so from your own home network rather than a public WiFi hot spot or crowded coffee shop. If you haven’t done so already, it’s probably a good time to install HTTPS Everywhere from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Firefox browser add-on can be installed from the group’s website at https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere. While many sites support the HTTPS protocol, most will not automatically re-direct you to the secure means of communicating with the site. HTTPS everywhere tries to bridge that gap until websites begin to take more responsibility for the security of their surfers.

While you’re at it, make sure that you’ve have a reputable Anti-Virus package installed and are current with all updates and virus definitions. If a new registration is required to make a purchase, be sure to review the sites Privacy Policy before handing over all of your personally identifying information. And when it comes time to pay, remember that Federal Law gives Credit Card users some protection in that it allows them to dispute the charges if the ordered item is not received. When it comes time to key in the sixteen digits, be sure that your browser has the secure HTTPS lock displayed or that https appears in the browser address bar rather than the standard http. Remember that the S stands for Secure, and you’ll definitely want to look for this before you enter any personal information at all. Some browsers also offer warnings when visiting a website suspected of phishing. And lastly, keep records of your purchases in the form of screen shots of saved web pages, and be sure to check your credit card and bank statements after the fact to make sure that all the charges are correct and that there aren’t any surprises that you didn’t authorize. When it comes to online shopping, an ounce of prevention is worth a terabyte of cure.

That’s it for your pre-turkey-day tryptophan tear-down and that’s that for BarretTime.

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