Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More silliness.

Yay, he said, deadpan like. We're getting another coal mine. A few months ago, someone fairly senior in the Green party made the comment that it's not entirely out of the question for them to work with a National government. Fair enough. I just can't see the National party the Greens would work with as being this National party. Seriously, our current crop occasionally mouth some empty platitudes about the importance of the environment and then completely ignore whatever it was they said when it come to actually doing stuff. We've got a watered down emissions trading scheme that's not doing much, farmers are exempt at the moment and we're giving the go ahead for coal mines, idiocy pure and simple. It doesn't how much more efficient new coal plants are, we will be releasing more carbon that's been locked underground for millions of years into the cycle. And I'm sorry, suggesting that it's not our problem if someone overseas burns the coal instead of us is just outright cowardice.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The draft Auckland Plan is out.

And as one of my flatmates remarked this evening, isn't it so nice to have a plan that is looking to the next 30 or so years, rather than the next election cycle. Not that this is the actual plan, it's only a draft, but there are glimmers of hope. Some were pointed out by Brian Rudman in the herald today. The fact that the draft has retained the idea that we should be going for a compact city rather than continuing sprawl is a good thing. The idea of bringing down the percentage of low-rise detached accommodation to around 58% (from76) is a good one. It's a nice dream, but it's just not efficient land use for a city of any reasonable size. There was also reporting on planning for intensifying development around some of Auckland's satellite urban centres like New Lynn, Manukau and Albany. Which is a good thing. overseas, the big cities that I've been to tended to have a central city city and several other mini city hubs surrounding the main bit. Which means you're not jamming all your population and commerce into one small area that ends up horribly congested. The wish list was pretty spectacular. Annoyingly I can't find the link for what I thought would be one of the best long term planning options that I read today, which was the second harbour crossing being a tunnel for car traffic with trains running underneath them. Seriously, as much as we need the inner city rail loop and the rail link to the airport, I think a rail link to the shore would be a serious game changer for Auckland. In a good way.
The way the super city was put together was horrific. It's beginning to look like parts of it are actually doing what it was meant to do, be a voice for  Auckland and get us looking beyond the next year or two. It's just not quite the voice that the people who bunged the city together were expecting.
In fact, most of today's local news actually made me feel uncharacteristically chipper about Auckland's future, and not just because Stephen Joyce is hating it, he said with a grin.

Poynten Terrace art looks like it's returning.

This is a good thing. A while ago, one of our prominent graffiti artists, a chap going by Askew had a bit of a run in with the council. Not in the way graffiti artists normally have run in with councils though. The enforcement arm of the council's anti-graffiti department painted over a wall that Askew has been painting on, with permission, for ages. It was a bit of a downer really, the art changed reasonably regularly and was quite good - I enjoyed it anyway. When people complained, the bureaucratic little toad (someone Askew has apparently had problems with before) in charge of the anti-graffiti squad started floating plans calling for council sanctioned art works. Anyway, it appears that someone, somewhere has been listening to reason and Askew has been compensated (donated to charity), has been given a new space and will possibly get the old space back for more artworks in years to come. Wh'hoo!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Where's your data!

There's two interesting things going on in the comments of this recent piece from the dominion post.
The first is a general theme of many comment threads I've been seeing lately, primarily on science blogs, but also all over the social/politcal blogs, and that is the preponderance of strawman arguments. Their sheer ubiquity is astounding. Pop down and have a look at comments 7 and 15 for example. In the article, Campbell Jones, a sociology lecturer at Auckland Uni, presents a commentary, putting forward the view that (as best as I can tell) currently, pretty much all of the credit for wealth creation goes to the investor, when given that nothing would happen without the employee's, it should probably be shared more evenly between the investor and the people who actually do the work. Comment's 7 and 15 pretty much come right out and say that Jones is proposing some form of
socialism. Which he's not. He's pointing out that in the past, bad
things have happened when the gap between the investors and the workers
has got to large, but that's a loooonng long way from endorsing
socialism. Which means these commenters are knowingly or otherwise arguing against a straw man. It just boggles the mind really.

The other interesting thing that's happened is primarily in the beginning of comment 15. There are a few topics where, when someone writes an opinion piece either directly having a go at or asking that we critically consider the topic, that opinion piece is then derided for having "no evidence, no data, no alternative," and being "just empty rhetoric". It's an opinion piece for crying out loud. Asking that we think about something critically, or demonstrating that there is cause to analysing something critically, is not the same as actually doing the analysis. Which is where you want the evidence. The posts that I recall most often seeing attacked this way tend to be asking us to pay attention to climate change, suggesting that religion might not have all the answers and that the whole free market thing might not actually be the best way to regulate our economies. And when someone does pop up with comments in response, with said evidence, it's normally written off by the attacker as biased and not worth paying attention to - i.e there is nothing which the attacker will accept as evidence against their position. Preaching rather than argument in essence.

For the record, they are both interesting things. They are also quite worrying/disconcerting for someone who spends most of their day assuming the people around them are actually ... engaged with the world they live in.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nothing to see, move along there.

Nothing to blog about this evening, to busy with ye olde Martini's and Beethoven's 9th. Finally got a confirmed start date for my PhD, so I'm taking the night off he said with a grin.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Now lookie there...

 I have to admit to finding this to being well on the amusing side of things. First, twitter, facebook et al. get praised for their part in allowing people to organise protests over the Arab spring. Months later, rioting occurs in London and those same leaders that were praising social media's ability to allow people to organise, start calling for the various sites to be shut down in "times of crisis". Hypocrisy anyone? Better yet, a week or so later, initial analysis of the twitter feeds shows that it was probably used more to react and bring communities together so that they could weather the riots rather than being used to organise them. A side of "I have no clue about what's going on or what I'm saying" with your hypocrisy sir?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Genetic Engineering -it's a tool.

And given the problems with feeding the worlds population over the next 50 years, it's one that shouldn't be ignored. To be sure, it's not going to get us out of the pickle we'll be in by itself, but it is one of the tools we should be using. There's a nice summary in Scientific American from a week or so ago, running through the basics of what we can do, what the problems we will be facing are and why we should be using it. It uses a lot of the arguments I've been using in conversations recently, someone else wrote it, but it sums up a lot of teh things I've been saying lately. Such as population growth, limited food supplies, targeted gene transfer as opposed to the haphazard methods of traditional breeding, many years of use (for food) with no safety issues, environmentally friendly with the reduced use pesticides and so forth.

I do find it rather interesting that when you present these arguments there are, generally speaking two main responses. The first runs along the lines of "oh, well, yes, that's fine, but what about evil monsanto locking farmers into buying seeds?" Which is a business practice rather than genetic engineering itself. Fine, object to the use of the tool, that doesn't make the tool evil. And I'm pretty sure that if you do some digging, you'll find those stories about evil monsanto making crops that didn't seed properly and had to bought anew every year, are old. The schemes didn't work. Not because monsanto weren't trying, but because the plants kept producing seeds.
The second response is "yeah, genes from one wheat to another wheat, that's fine, but crossing species boundaries (human genes into goats) is icky". I'm not sure that's a worthwhile response. Yes, it creeps people out. Why though? And I never really get a better response than "I just don't like it". Which annoys me. If someone is going to object to something, that could be a useful tool for all sorts of things, "I don't like it" doesn't really cut the mustard as an excuse to ban it. Especially when we have that history of use that strongly suggest when used sensibly, it's not harmful.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And now for something completely cool.

We have fairly interesting (and complex) immune systems. One thing they are generally not that good a fighting is cancer, because the immune system is generally geared towards taking care of foreign things, viruses, bacteria and the like, and cancer is not foreign, it's the body itself failing to work properly. The part of the immune system that identifies contaminated cells, antibodies, don't see any contamination because it's just normal cells not working properly rather than contaminated cells. Still, these abnormal cells produce some proteins that normal cells don't, so researchers have been trying to use antibodies to identify those proteins. And now the kicker - there's a fair number of people who have been working on this for a while, but it appears some researchers from Seattle have found a useful antibody/drug combo, where a fairly lethal drug is attached to an antibody that targets the odd proteins that cancer cells produce. The antibody/drug complex is taken inside the cell, where the drug gets released and goes nato, destroying the cell. The antibody is acting as a targeted drug delivery system (surprise surprise, cancer drugs are generally fairly nasty things, toxic things designed to kill, better targeting means lower doses and putting less nasty shit into patients is a good thing®), all very elegant, so far, quite efficient and very cool. Then again, there's lots of cool stuff happening in cancer research these days.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The perils of communication.

Danyl and QoT (new blog, for me anyway, appears to be worth reading and vaguely sensible at times) appear to be having a go at Clare Curran, a Labour MP who's a little peeved at the Greens for taking some of Labours vote. I'm guessing QoT's comment about being called part of Nationals cadre of attack bloggers is sarcastic, the Imperator fish chap certainly didn't say that in their blog - just that National have a bunch of proxies and are thus separated from the icky bits of online ... debate shall we say, whereas Labour are in the thick of it, which isn't doing them any favours at the moment. The bit that I found interesting though was a comment from a chap called Michael Wood, a Labour chappy.
We don’t always get it right, but people like Clare and Darien have spent most of their lives trying to make a difference for working people, and when given the chance in government they did. 
This, I think is important. Doing your best isn't necessarily good enough. It's why I think some of Labours votes will go to the Greens, the Greens are doing the work, asking questions, making it obvious that they know what they are talking about. The Greens best, is better than Labours best at the moment. Helen Clark didn't present as a particularly warm gregarious person, we liked her because she did the work and always knew what was going on, even if she still made the occasional misstep. I think (hope) the whole blogosphere thing will be a good thing for Labour - eventually, having a front line communication tool between the public and the MP's will eventually make things better, when the MP's figure out a) how to use that tool effectively and b)when they actually start performing the duties of an opposition party. The current crop don't appear to get it, eventually they'll learn or we'll get a new crop who will hopefully be able to use these communication tools effectively, which will make, I think for a much stronger government than one that is hands off, letting it's proxies do the work. Which is why shutting down Labours blogging service, as Imperator Fish seems to think might be a solution, might be a short term fix, it would be a bad idea long term. And Labour seriously need some long term fixes, short term fixes are only going to prolong the pain.




We're quite adaptable, others, not so much.

So, I linked to an article a few days ago talking about the pole-ward migration of species. This is one of the results of that, namely that there is going to be a loss in genetic diversity. As the climate changes, species move, if their movement is restricted by say living in a stream that doesn't go in the right direction, they die. Maybe not the whole species, but certainly a decent chunk of it can be at danger. And a lack of diversity within a species is not going to help a species adapt to further changes in climate. We are going to lose so much in the next century or so. sigh.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nature as infrastructure.

I've seen this argument before in slightly different forms. It's an angle that I think should be emphasised more often, especially by environmentalists. It's the perfect bridge between those concerned with protecting the environment and their arch-enemies, the capitalists. It all comes from the very basic premise that if you go back far enough, our entire economy, is dependant on nature, food production, mining, construction, power, everything. And if you want to be able to continue building successful companies that make lots of money, you have to pay attention to the infrastructure. It's been ignored in the past and thus is not in the best of shape. And we all know what happens when you don't maintain the infrastructure we're used to thinking about - you get shitty roads and bridges that fall down, power cuts and failing utilities. We sort of already do it in a very limited sense. Fisheries have quotas, if you don't they get overfished and die, leaving a lot of unemployed fishermen. The fish are part of the structure of the industry, manage them well and they can last and be economically beneficial for many many years. We should be doing the same with the rest of the environment - soil conservation, air quality, water supply.

Sitting still for music.

Seriously, I don't get it. Music can be a grand thing, but it's not a thing in itself. With the exception of certain classical pieces, I find the practice of sitting in room listening to music with a bunch of other people to be horribly self-indulgent bollocks on the part of the musician. There should be some movement or ... something attached to the music. Possibly, I will expand on this when typing a sentence doesn't take more than 4-5 minutes. Wot.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hrmm...

T'wll be interesting to see how this works, old technology put together differently. Usually, computer chips are set up around logic gates, flows of electricity which can be interpreted as OR's or AND's and the various combinations of them that those two options can create (there's quite a few possible combinations). This chip, from what I can tell is different, set up more as a network rather than a series of gates. Better at pattern recognition, not as good as the classic computer chip at number crunching. I am, I have to say, thoroughly intrigued. 

Another consequence of climate change.

It's not one many people think about, mostly you think about extreme weather events like droughts and floods and so forth. As the climate changes though, species that are well adapted to a particular type of climate, move. The cooler an animal needs to be, the further towards the poles it will travel. This, of course, has to be balanced with if the species can still find food or water or whatever else it needs in it's new location. So it's entirely possible that species will attempt to move and die or won't be able to move and die. A number of species will probably be able to survive but will move from flourishing to bare survival.  Given the breakneck speed (evolutionarily speaking) there's no time for species to adapt to the climate as it changes around them. If you were particularly macabre, you could probably use the disappearance of species as a  substitute for a thermometer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

News just in - excitement!

Wh'hoo! I believe is the first word that sprang to mind when Nature magazine linked me to this. It's not an actual space elevator. Just the fact that there is a serious bunch of professionals that are actually talking about building a space elevator is waaaay cool. Read the wiki page if you don't know what one is, basically it's a cheap way into space. We're a long way from building one, but it's good to be talking about it. Something for people to dream about as Neil de Grasse Tyson would say. Or at least, I think he would.


Spoilers

In certain circumstances, spoilers change the nature of a story, I don't think however, that they actually spoil it. Not for me anyway. Say, for example, The Usual Suspects, the Kevin Spacey film. Brilliant film, and the first time you see it, without knowing the ending, watching it unfold is a brilliant thing. Knowing the ending doesn't detract from the experience though, as I've watched it more than once and it's still a good film. Knowing the ending makes it different, not bad. There are however, very few instances where this is the case, i.e that knowing the ending will significantly detract from the story. Especially when you get to films, as 98% of films that you watch are going to have a ye olde classic ending. Most of the fun is in how the characters get to the end of the story. And that, quite often gets ways to complex to explain, so spoilers aren't a problem. Try explaining the end of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, or Kick Ass. It can be done, but most descriptions are going to leave you flat - going and watching the endings after they've been explained is still a joy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The other side of the flaw.

Actually implementing any sort of scheme to manage the shopping habits of the young un's is going to be fraught. There's the obvious flaw with food stamps, i.e. swapping them for cash with someone else. Then if you go the smartcard route, as DPF is touting, there's two problems. First, there's the obvious expense of setting up a nationwide system for a very small amount of people. Unless of course you're blatantly rolling this out as a pilot system for everyone - even then it would be significantly more sensible to roll it out in a limited area to get it working first than roll it out nationwide. As Danyl says, very expensive with the total result being that people who can't legally buy alcohol and smokes, being unable to buy them from supermarkets. I can't see working it into the eftpos system being particularly effective, to prevent alcohol sales, you'd then have to interface the eftpos system with the docket rather than just sending the eftpos people a total to be deducted.

The other problem is, I think more important, it is one of what you're trying to do. If you have a look around your local supermarket in NZ, and then have a quick squiz around a fruit and vege shop or a butchers or a bulk food store, you'll very quickly see that supermarkets are not the cheapest place to shop. If you are careful with your money and plan a little bit of extra time for organisation (which unemployed people really should be able to spare), then it is possible to significantly increase your purchasing power. I've done my time on a benefit, if I'd just wandered in and bought everything from the supermarket, I would have starved. And if you're trying to teach people to budget, surely you're also trying to teach them the value of their money. NZ supermarkets are not the place to do that. And I can't see smaller retailers signing up to a scheme requiring expensive equipment to read a new smartcard in the hope of getting business out of one of the few thousand people who don't have much money scattered across the country.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Windmills

Apparently we're going to get some more. I seriously don't understand the opposition some residents in this country have towards wind turbines for power generation. Then again, I don't consider them to be necessarily ugly either. I rather like the idea of having turbines on the horizon, makes the whole idea of power generation more immediate so to speak. As in, it's a visible reminder to the populace that energy comes from somewhere and hopefully make people a little more conscious of the fact. They would be, I would hope, a reminder that we don't need to damage the planet to gather the energy we want.

The benfits of a delay.

The brain is slowly returning to it's version of normal service after several days spent frantically in the kitchen, serving food for 180 odd people, a late, late night, an early morning, half a days worth of cleaning , moving friends house and packing stuff away. There was a nice 12 hours sleep after that lot. One of the additional benefits of a delay in transmission though, apart from having a ball of time, is that when an issue pops up, not only do you get time to reflect upon it, but you get the benefits of other peoples opinion that bring to the fore, other angles on it that one might haven't have thought about otherwise.

My initial thought on the genius welfare reforms for youth that have been released into our media was it was annoying drivel. Seriously, how many people would it effect? And how effective would it be? So over the past couple of days, the numbers have come trickling in. It appears about 4000 yoofs are on independent circumstances allowances, compared to 58,000 unemployed yoofs. So straight off the bat, it appears that if there's a problem, it doesn't appear to be in people taking advantage of the system, it appears the problem would be that there aren't enough jobs. Gordon Campbell tells us that young people now form a greater percentage of the dole, hey, maybe it is those lazy young bastards. But wait, someone says, look, 40-54 years olds also form a greater percentage of the people on the dole compared to 5 years ago.  Lazy arsed old people. More likely it means it's harder for the young 'uns and the oldies to find work at the moment. Russell Brown's numbers tend to back up that view. All of which reinforces the belief that it's idiot scare mongering on the part of our current government.

Then again, as Danyl says, hey, maybe some of these ideas will work, how about we have a trial and see what happens. Funnily enough, he does it it the same post that points out the flaws that pretty much every other voucher system/food stamp type system has failed to solve. The fact that National are running this up the flagpole at this point in time reinforces the notion that these are populist preachings that have no evidence of being able to work nor any suggestion that this is going to be a trial to sort out whether it works or not. The other notion that it reinforces sadly, is that a decent chunk of the population nod sagely to themselves after 10 seconds of not thinking about the issue and declare it's a fine thing that is being proposed. Good grief.

Of course, those with slightly less faith in the good intentions of our current government are, in the comments on Russell's post, wondering weather this will get implemented and used as a springboard to privatise the entire welfare sector. Which is just plain scary. The market is not all knowing, there are some areas of government where the interest of the citizen should be put before the interest of the shareholder. I really hope they are just being paranoid.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oh to be a polymath.

When you walk around London (carefully these days) there are little blue plaques on some of the walls telling you that someone famous lived there from such and such a year until some other year, along with whatever they were famous for. Writers, politician's, artists, all sorts. My favourite was the one that said : Thomas Young. Man of Science. In a way, one can be quite jealous of the polymath's who lived a century or so ago. Then, it was possible to span a significant number of fields, young Thomas dabbled in light, mechanics, energy, music, egyptology, languages and physiology, to name a few. These days, it's just not possible to go in depth into that many fields and remain current with what's happening. Back then of course, we didn't know quite so much and so it didn't take as long to come up to speed. Now days, with so much more to learn before you can start contributing, scientists are, on average, getting older and more specialised and are having to work in inter-disciplinary groups before being able to make significant contributions. Still, we know a lot more these days so it's hard to be too jealous.

And now for something significantly more upbeat.

There's a camera orbiting Mars at the moment. The resolution isn't so good (1 pixel to 18m I think was the figure mentioned on the podcast) but it's found some large streaks that are changing rapidly. Rapidly in Mars terms. There's a number of possible options as to what is causing it, the most likely candidate though, is water. To warm for CO2, to regular for wind - most likely water. And with liquid water, the possibility of life increases significantly. Though funnily enough, the next rover they're sending can't land to close because it might be contaminated with microbes from earth. Which is something I thought they would have taken into account. I'm fairly sure that the Cassini-Huygens probe that went to Saturn and put a lander on Titan was sterilised before it left.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Being careful with words.

I have heard over the past day or so, several people with which I am acquainted, refer to the rioters in London as scum. I'm a picky bastard sometimes, where the choice of words is concerned. The use of the word scum, is I think, misplaced. The use of the word scum implies, to me at least, that the rioters are part of our societal group that can only be looked down upon, that they are somehow unworthy of our understanding. Barbaric, I think would be a better word, still not perfect but better. As best I can tell, not being there, the rioters are essentially removing themselves from society - both protest and looting looks to me like people who have basically said - society doesn't work for us anymore, nor can it control us, we are placing ourselves outside it for the time being. As the commenter in Power's Guardian column suggested, it's not the police who keep law and order, it's the populace, abiding by the law that does. Flouting the law - stating that it doesn't apply to you is removing yourself from the society that abides by it. Thus, barbaric - the barbarians outside the gates of civilised society.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London Riots - better words than mine.

I've seen this linked to a few times from various places over the past few hours. Worth a read. Given that it's from someone on the scene, I dare say they're in a better position than I to know what's happening. This and the guardian article from Nina Power that I linked to earlier are some good pieces of writing. Makes me wonder how it's all going to turn out and whether it'll be a catalyst for change or not.

London Riots.

It's pathetic really. The big news here for the past couple of days has been the fact that the All Blacks won on Saturday and that Addidas are way overcharging retailers and the public for the new All Black jersey. Seriously. The fact that there have been riots in London is beginning to filter through, slowly. As I understand it, there are other places in the world that are even worse off than London atm. The riots in London are a bit of a shock, some of the you tube clips and news stories are touching on places that I used to live, namely Brixton and Hackney. It's a bit of a worry really. Nina Power, in an article in the Guardian had, I think a pertinent observation* :
There's a widespread myth that law and order is preserved by police, politicians and other forces of authority. Not true. Never has been ...
Law and order is kept by a collective acceptance of mutual goals. If,as a society, we look after each other, offer everyone a share and a stake in the common weal, maintain some semblance of a Rousseauian Social Contract, then the vast majority of people will mostly stick to the rules without ever needing to see a police officer.
When people lose that sense of being looked after, no longer feel part of society, no longer feel like they have any kind of share in any kind of collective, the ties that bind begin to be broken.
As I'm writing this, I get news that the riots in Clapham are close to my sisters place but that she's fine - breath's a sigh of relief. With a touch of annoyance at the media. Clapham? It's via a text from the UK that I add Clapham to the list of locations with rioting?

*Update It wasn't actually Power who said this, it appears to be been one of the commenters in her column that was arguing there is a context to the riots - which is still worth reading.



Monday, August 8, 2011

The placebo effect.

It's an interesting thing the placebo effect. Ben Goldacre of Bad Science, provided a nice little summary a few years ago at Nerdstock. Basically, it's an incredibly powerful thing, to the point where it works even if you tell people what it is. In certain cases it can even overcome medications with known physiological effects (some stimulants and relaxants). He sums it up as, roughly speaking, if I recall correctly, "several million fucktons more interesting that the fairy tales involved in homoeopathy (where the only effect is the placebo effect). And it is, a thoroughly interesting topic though. Worth reading, is a post at Science Based Medicine, which covers some recent work on the placebo effect. While the placebo effect is a powerful artefact, it appears to operate primarily at the subjective level. While a patient may feel better, at the physiological level, it has no effect. Which in certain circumstances, could be quite dangerous - think asthma where the patient feels better or just slightly short of breath, when in actual fact they're on the verge of total lung failure.
While I acknowledge that it's a very definitely an effect of sometime, it's not something I'd like to see added to the physicians general tool box. If a patient knows what a placebo is and that they are getting one, then there would be, I think, a certain amount trust lost in the physician - patient might feel better, but are they really going to have that much faith in a physician who is giving them inert medication. If the patient doesn't know, then it involves the physician lying to the patient, again, not something I'm comfortable with. Which is not to say that physicians should be ladling out drugs to those who don't need them, we should be aiming for a healthcare system where physicians have time to talk to patients, find out what's going on and be able to explain why patients need/don't need drugs. And a population that  listens.

Browsing Google News

Headline : Goff doesn't believe Harawira taking votes from Labour.
First reaction : That's because the only people left voting Labour are the die hard never vote anything but Labour voters.
More thoughtful reaction: Those who value the form/methods of a functioning democracy look towards the greens despite not agreeing with everything they say. Those who get by with just a smile have been voting for Key for a while now. Or they've stopped voting. Which is the one's Mana is going after I think, those who don't currently vote. They haven't been Labours vote for quite some time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Carefully carefully.

One should always, always be a little wary when reading health advice in popular news/opinion type sites. Slate might be well respected in certain areas of politics/popular culture/whatever (I have no idea, really, they might be, they might not be). On the topic of antioxidants, this is something I've heard rumblings about for a while. If I wasn't feeling quite so lazy at the moment, I'd go and dig out the references I've got stashed somewhere. However, I am lazy. If I recall correctly though, the stuff I've seen so far an anti-oxidants is more along the lines of them being useless rather than harmful. This article only hinted them being harmful, something to possibly investigate if a)I was actually deliberately taking antioxidants for health benefits and b)I wasn't quite so lazy at the moment. The more pressing harm, is noted at the end of the article, in that the trust between doctors and patients is broken down when the public are convinced of the effectiveness of anti-oxidants despite the advice of their physicians. Similar to how one of the the biggest harms of homoeopathy is that people who believe in it, neglect to get proper medical advice.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Schlurpping coffee.

I can wholeheartedly recommend the coffee tastings at Good One in Brown st. behind Ponsonby on Thursday mornings. I spent a chunk of yesterday morning schlurping coffee from a spoon, with attendant noises. Guatemalan, Nicaraguan and Ethiopian. Apparently, the slurping is to break the surface tension and violently move the liquid about so as to get the aromatics and flavour compounds moving up into the cavity behind your nose where most of your flavour receptors are. Similar to what you do with wine. My first thought though was of whisky tasting, where I've been told that great things can come from holding the whisky in your mouth and breathing in over top it - whisky's alcohol percentage is significantly higher and alcohol being, apparently carries the flavour compounds, the heat of the warms it up sufficiently that there's evaporation, you breath in over top of it which takes the evaporated whisky for a ride around your olfactory system. Which is grand if you're expecting it. A little bit of a shock if you're not.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I didn't think support for the RWC was that low.

Danyl summarises a survey on  support for the RWC.  The idea that 40% of the population are looking forward to it, is not entirely unexpected. I would have expected the other two numbers to be swapped around though. As in, I thought ambivalence would be bigger than the number of people not looking forward to it. Me, I've only recently been tipped over from the ambivalent to the anti side, technically, I'm probably on the fence between the two camps. Danyl also raises the fact that our news coverage is going to be dire over the course of the tournament, something in the minus column that I haven't really been considering. Not that our news coverage is that much better than tabloid quality at the moment. His last sentence, as is quite often the case, a gem:
"I’m dreading the toxic amounts of fake nationalist idiocy coming our way
and the implied rebuke that you’re not a real New Zealander if you
don’t buy into it."


Monday, August 1, 2011

Nope, sorry.

I suspect I've just been tipped over the edge from ambivalent towards the rugby world cup to sod off. For which, we have to thank, the people in charge of parking at Auckland city council. First for taking so sodding long to get back to us - they suggested that we submit our applications by the 20th of July so as to have permits by the 5th of August bledisloe game when they would be testing everything. Application dutifully sent off round the 12th of July, no contact from then till the 1st of August. Then telling us that no, you actually need proof of residence tied to the registration of each individual vehicle rather than proof of residence and the vehicle registration numbers you would like permits for. So my flatmate has to apply separately and I need to get a letter from Dad (I've been borrowing his while my car is off the road). This is apparently to stop those bastardly residents from making things difficult for the community and getting permits for other vehicles - yes that's right, it's me making it difficult for my fellow residents by applying for the the permits I was told I was allowed to apply for by the council. Bastards. Enough to ruin a Monday morning.