Entries from November 2007 ↓

An excellent article on diet and nutrition

Unhappy Meals by MICHAEL POLLAN

It starts with the simple advice and conclusion of the piece:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words.

And more evidence of how capitalism fucks with policy:

Naïvely putting two and two together, the committee drafted a straightforward set of dietary guidelines calling on Americans to cut down on red meat and dairy products. Within weeks a firestorm, emanating from the red-meat and dairy industries, engulfed the committee, and Senator McGovern (who had a great many cattle ranchers among his South Dakota constituents) was forced to beat a retreat. The committee’s recommendations were hastily rewritten. Plain talk about food — the committee had advised Americans to actually “reduce consumption of meat” — was replaced by artful compromise: “Choose meats, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake.”

A subtle change in emphasis, you might say, but a world of difference just the same. First, the stark message to “eat less” of a particular food has been deep-sixed; don’t look for it ever again in any official U.S. dietary pronouncement. Second, notice how distinctions between entities as different as fish and beef and chicken have collapsed; those three venerable foods, each representing an entirely different taxonomic class, are now lumped together as delivery systems for a single nutrient. Notice too how the new language exonerates the foods themselves; now the culprit is an obscure, invisible, tasteless — and politically unconnected — substance that may or may not lurk in them called “saturated fat.”

Lucky for me I’m mostly vegetarian.

Besides which, it makes sense. The spoils of a meat kill were somewhat of a luxury for our ancestors, and our bodies are evolved to be sustained mostly from foraging fruits, nuts, and veges.

War on terror increases chances of biological invasion

I recently attended a workshop on invasive species distribution and spread modelling. One interesting thing to note, is that APHIS has lost a lot of biological inspectors (people trying to intercept biological contaminants that may result in foreign species establishing in the USA) to Homeland Security. A similar thing has happened in Canada with CFIS and Border Security.

It’s a shame, because at least APHIS and CFIS were doing something useful, the whole war on terror thing is so ridiculous, because if someone was half-intelligent and really wanted to cause mischief, then the smoke screen of apparent security wouldn’t be barrier.

New Zealand Customs ignores TSA locks

So yesterday, at the end of my journey from Vancouver, my luggage got left in Sydney, Australia. Whereas I went all the way through to Christchurch. “That’s fine” I thought, since Christchurch airport promised to deliver the luggage to my house the next day.

It just arrived. But one of the zippers is broken off, and my Travel Security Agency/Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs registered lock was removed. Now these locks are MEANT to be opened without damage by custom’s people. But it seems New Zealand Customs doesn’t do this, they just break the fuckers off. I rang them and they just laughed at the suggestion that they’d have a master key for them (which other countries do).

My advice: next time you go travelling don’t bother buying the expensive $30 TSA locks, just buy a few shitty $2 shop jobs. So much for buying something to last, instead it’s a disposable throwaway culture in New Zealand official-dom. Green and clean New Zealand? Whatever.

(I might be particularly pissed off since it was annoying enough to have my bag left behind, and this is just the thing that’s put me over the edge).

Media library database design

What I’d really like to see is a standard database design for media libraries.

I use different media players for different purposes, and also different media players across platforms. It’s annoying as hell to have to refresh the database for each whenever there is a change, especially when your music collection is pushing 280 gigs. Lets just say it takes more than a couple of hours.

It’s be really nice if someone came up with a database design that suited the needs of the different applications, and if the developers making the media players would support it. That’s assuming there isn’t already one…

My ideal set-up would be my server running a Postgres database which could be connected to from my laptop/workstation/PDA with concurrent users. It’d also support play-lists, fields for BPM and harmonic analysis, and album covers, all saved in the database. Also, personalised tagging systems and last.fm integrated tagging.

Anybody heard of any initiatives like that? I know there are client/server based media software, but DBMSs are already designed with that purpose in mind and most hi-end media players use some kind of SQL database to store results, even if it’s SQLite.

Sex in space

I’m watching Earth to Mars: The Great Debate in my hotel room in Vancouver, because it’s horrible and rainy outside.

Anyhow one of the factoids they showed was that Nasa’s policy on sexual relations in space is that it’s fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with mission objectives. Good to know they’ve thought of these things. Although further reading online seems to indicate general ambivalence about it, with NASA wanting to leave it to an astronaut’s good judgement.

Also, further to the subject of online identities and open protocols, Google announced OpenSocial a while ago. I highly intend to integrate this into Amplify Me (site is really just a place holder at the moment).