Thursday, 26 February 2009

Ecstasy vs Peanuts

Finally, some sense being talked over the issue! Not that it will ever reach the rarefied stratosphere of our dear leaders, but there we go...

Sourced from

Here's a question for you:

Imagine you are seated at a table with two bowls in front of you. One contains peanuts, the other tablets of the illegal recreational drug MDMA (ecstasy). A stranger joins you, and you have to decide whether to give them a peanut or a pill. Which is safest?
So asks the New Scientist in its latest editorial. I think you know the answer, don't you?
You should give them ecstasy, of course. A much larger percentage of people suffer a fatal acute reaction to peanuts than to MDMA.
Now it's true that some research suggests there may be some ill-effects* associated with ecstasy use; but it's also the case that even these effects are, so far, so marginal as to have, in general terms, no meaningful impact upon users' ability to remain functional members of society. As the New Scientist argues in an article accompanying its excellent leader:
Enough time has finally elapsed to start asking if ecstasy damages health in the long term. According to the biggest review ever undertaken, it causes slight memory difficulties and mild depression, but these rarely translate into problems in the real world. While smaller studies show that some individuals have bigger problems, including weakened immunity and larger memory deficits, so far, for most people, ecstasy seems to be nowhere near as harmful over time as you may have been led to believe.
Common sense tells us this must be true: after all it is estimated that half a million people in Britain take ecstasy every year. Shockingly, they continue to lead normal lives. Who knew?

*Of course even if the adverse consequences of taking ecstasy (something I've never done myself, incidentally) were much more apparent there would still be little reason to prohibit people from taking an informed choice as to whether or not they wanted to use the durg.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Finally, something from Ricky Gervais I can agree with

"I really don't know why a doctor under a hippocratic oath takes the risk of something going badly wrong, sometimes with general anaesthetic, because someone can't be bothered to go for a fucking run.

"They have bits sliced off and tied up and sucked out. I want to say to them, 'You lazy f---ing fat pig. Just go for a run and stop eating burgers. You might fucking die'.

"Some things are not worth the risk. When someone's facial surgery goes wrong because they wanted plumper lips or a little nose, I think they're a fucking idiot.

"If your arse is too fucking fat, stop eating and go for a run."

Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Best Internet Spam I've Ever Seen

Easily the funniest thing I've read in months. Pure comic gold.

Aloha, gentleman

My happiness! I ask you, answer me!
I’m absolutely adequate and cheerful person. But the thing is that I’m
working much, sometimes even too much and because of it I’m lack of men
attention. I’m catastrophically out of time for my private life and to
build my own happiness. That is why I have to use power and might of the
modern life – Internet. My only desire is to find a Man, the real and
desired one. But otherwise this is not an end in itself. In man I appreciate
the good sense of humor and even can forbid some shortcomings if he will
be able to make me laugh. Do you want me to cook for you? You are right!
My dishes will effect you! Do you want to have pretty woman nearby? You
will be dazzeled by my beauty. Believe me, I am your treasure!
Smile at me

Uliana S.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Matt Dancing

I love this video, and so do you, really, even if you don't want to admit it.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Al Gore Endorses Barack Obama in Detroit, MI

Al Gore at his very best - I really do hope that Barack Obama can pull it off, I think he is America's last best hope - and by extension, all of our last best hope.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Photosynth Prototype

Wow, is that impressive technology, really unbelievable

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Monday, 12 May 2008

Eco Tip #2: Don't use plastic bottles, and avoid canned food.

A second useful tip, this time via the fantastic Grist environmental news magazine.
Dear Umbra,

I've been hearing a lot in the news lately about the dangers of certain kinds of plastic bottles. What's the lowdown?

Littleton, Colo.

Dearest Ginger,

Always happy to be your source for the lowest lowdown around town. Today's lowdown: Don't use plastic bottles, and avoid canned food.

All the latest plastics hullabaloo is over bisphenol A, a component of many plastic products. Serious Gristoholic Readers have known for years now that BPA, in its role as an endocrine disruptor, probably poses threats to public health. These readers have been easy to spot at recent cocktail parties: they lounge about looking self-satisfied and say, "Oh, I knew that already," when the topic of toxic plastic bottles comes up. Hence our motto: "Read Grist today,woo untold strangers with your wisdom tomorrow."

The properties of BPA lend a hardness and durability to plastic products, and it is (or was) in many now infamous consumer items, including baby bottles and clear Nalgene bottles. (Nalgene has now forsworn BPA, as have Camelbak, Toys R Us, Playtex, and others.) It also lines food cans, such as might hold soup or beans. It leaches from all of these places into our food and then into our bodies; tests have found it lurking in our bodily fluids. In laboratory animals, low-dose exposure to BPA has been linked to cancer, diabetes, fertility problems, and behavior disorders.

Over the past decade, scientists have brought increasing pressure on the U.S. government to revisit its BPA-exposure standards, because said scientists keep finding probable harm at lower doses than the EPA safety level. The topic has been a continuing drama, especially over the past year. Some highlights: the U.S. government hired a firm to assess BPA toxicity, the firm ignored all the anti-BPA scientists and was later found to have links to the plastic industry, the FDA was forced to show its hand and found wanting in scientific rigor (shock!), and the National Toxicology Program came out with a tentatively anti-BPA draft. Then Health Canada opened a comment period on banning BPA, and major retailers and producers starting abandoning the BPA ship -- all within the last few months.

The Environmental Working Group has a detailed timeline of BPA studies and political developments, which you may enjoy reading. You can also find info by searching Grist for "bisphenol A" -- even just searching Ask Umbra for "bisphenol A" will get you scads of resources. I've put a few of the most relevant Grist links in this handy box for you:

Let me summarize a few of those resources and tips here, once again, so that we can all sleep easier at night. (Unless you have young babies -- even switching to glass bottles may not convince your child to sleep through the night.)

Avoid using plastic bottles, plastic food containers, and canned food. Find your own way to mitigate the loss of convenience this causes you. Glass, stainless steel, frozen foods, and fresh foods are all useful resources for a plastics- and BPA-free diet. BPA is not in every plastic, but each plastic has its own problems (cheery Grist article on chemicals may help you here) -- at least avoid vinyl, and any "Lexan" or No. 7 plastic that does not explicitly lack BPA. You would find such explicit lack of BPA via news from the manufacturer or, increasingly, on the packaging.

If you must use plastic, choose No. 1 PETE, No. 2 HDPE, No. 4 LDPE, or No. 5 PP, and eschew the rest. Tips on avoiding the nastiest plastics are found in handy guides such as those put out by Environment California, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Environmental Working Group.

Scientists are still debating the toxicity of BPA. I advocate making a change in your plastics use now, if you haven't already -- not because the science is definitive, but because it looks like it will become so, because it's not often that a potential toxin turns out to be safe, and because there are additional reasons to reduce plastic consumption and eat fresh foods over canned foods. I'm out of room, so if anyone needs to know the additional reasons, please write in.