Getting On Track (Help Wanted!)

On Track...

It’s been an interesting week. Largely in that “Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times” sorta way, but interesting.

And this post has been a pain in the ass. The main idea is to talk about things I’ve done this week to get my life back on track, and the plans I have going forward, and also to ask for some help.

But I’ve started several times, each time digressing as I tried to establish context and discuss what got me to this point, until the post becomes more  a rehash of recent history than a plan of action. If you need such a rehash, I’ve covered most of that ground here already and you can easily catch up. In the notes below, I will briefly cover some pertinent details.

I don’t want to make the mistake I’ve made at times in the past and cook up a huge plan of action that is too much to take on, only to inevitably (and quickly) falter. So I’ll focus on certain areas, and commit to a few definite tasks in those areas, allowing for the plan to grow more complex over time as appropriate.

And, as I said, I’m asking for help. I want friends to help me stay on track by holding me accountable. If you’re interested, I’m looking into ways to post my progress day to day (probably on Facebook) so you’ll know if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and you can alternately cheer me or badger me. I think it’ll help me a lot. As I figure the tracking system out, I’ll post more info.

Now, the foundation… Continue reading

Your Prostate Might Want a Cup of Joe

As a manly man who drinks a lot of coffee, I was pleased at this new report:

“Coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. It was plausible that there may be an association between coffee and prostate cancer,” said Kathryn M. Wilson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In a prospective investigation, Wilson and colleagues found that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee. This is the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease.

“Few studies have looked prospectively at this association, and none have looked at coffee and specific prostate cancer outcomes,” said Wilson. “We specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced vs. localized cancers or high-grade vs. low-grade cancers.”

Caffeine is actually not the key factor in this association, according to Wilson. The researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important, as coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals.

Time for me to make a pot.

Do you smoke? If so, are you a dick? [updated]

And now, an actual RANT, with SCIENCE!®

Is this YOUR legacy?

Is this YOUR legacy?

One of my pet peeves is people who just toss their cigarette butts around with no consideration for the public weal, the environment, or their own basic human integrity.

I’ve been known to toss smoldering butts back into car windows, or to politely return a butt to a smoker afoot with a comment along the lines of, “Hey, you dropped this. Figured it was an accident ’cause you look like you have more class than those assholes who just toss butts on the ground.”

People respond either belligerently or sheepishly, depending on whether they give a damn about anything outside of themselves or whether they at least don’t want people to think they’re trashy.

I’m sure some of you reading this are smokers. Some of you are smokers and also friends, maybe even good friends. If you’re my friend and a smoker, rest assured that I’m very concerned about your health (though I’ll never broach the subject, since you’re not an idiot and know it’s bad for you). And I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you toss your coffin nail remnants into an ashtray or bin where they belong, rather than treating the world as your goddamned ashtray. I think well of you, and just assume you’re better than that.

It’s not just a matter of litter, as ugly as the scattered constellations of dirty cigarette butts in the street, or in a park, or just along the highway, are. It’s actually bad for the environment. Really bad.

A doctor once told me that a single cigarette butt contains enough nicotine to kill an infant. And now this is in the news:

One of the most common forms of litter are cigarette butts.  Once these butts enter waterways, they become toxic to fish.  According to a new study by San Diego Sate University (SDSU), filter-tipped cigarette butts are deadly to marine and freshwater fish.  In fact, researchers would like to have the butts classified as hazardous waste.

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable. The filters are made up of 12,000 plastic-like cellulose acetate fibers that trap nicotine and tar.  There’s enough nicotine trapped in 200 used cigarette filters to kill a human!   An estimated 1.69 billion pounds of butts are littered each year worldwide, so you can imagine the negative effects these butts have on aquatic life when they wash into streams and oceans.

SDSU Public Health Professor Tom Novotny explains, “It is toxic at rather low concentrations. Even one butt in a liter of water can kill the fish in a period of 96 hours…”

Professor Novotny continues: “When they unconsciously throw their butts onto the ground, it’s not just litter, it’s a toxic hazardous waste product, and that’s what we’re trying to say. So that may be regulated at the local or state level. And we hope people will be more conscious about what they do with these cigarette butts.” [Source: "Cigarette Butts Kill Fish According to New Study," Blue Living Ideas]

There’s also this article from KPBS at San Diego State University, and likely a bunch more.

So, if you smoke, keep this stuff in mind. You can smell bad if you like, but please don’t be a dick.

UPDATE: A very good friend who’s a vet tells me “One single cigarette butt consumed can kill a dog or a cat according to the National Animal Poison Control Center – nasty !!”

So just think, worst case scenario, a single butt you throw on the ground could kill a dog, a cat, or a baby. Nice work, kemosabe.

North, East, West, & South 1/28/09

There’s an apocryphal explanation for the term news that says it’s an acronym for the four points of the compass, N(orth)E(ast)W(est)S(outh), in other words, all the stuff happening in all directions. The truth is much more plebeian, with news simply being a plural of new, and meaning “new things,” but I’ve always liked the elegance of that apocrypha, so I’m gonna use it for a brand new feature under ye olde outlaw moon, North East West & South, which will appear at suspenseful intervals of no pre-determined schedule.

In this feature, I’ll share a few bits of the latest news of whatever sort I find interesting or amusing, and I may comment, perhaps in a snide, sarcastic, cruel, bemused, or ironic way. So, here we go…

Jessica Alba vs. Bill O’Reilly

alba

Kudos to the delectable Ms. Alba for publicly showing that she not only has some brains, but has more of them than right-wing nitwit Bill O’Reilly. In an interview just after Obama’s inauguration, Alba called O’Reilly “kind of an a-hole.” Later, a “reporter” from TMZ (a cheesy gossip site) tried to put her on the spot about it, and she playfully asked him what Barack Obama’s greatest characteristic was. The TMZ goon demurred, saying he was uncomfortable answering because he was a (ahem) journalist. Alba told him to “be neutral — be Sweden about it.”

Both O’Reilly and TMZ attacked Alba for her apparent idiocy, because any idiot knows that it’s Switzerland that stayed neutral during WWII, and she of course meant that. Except, no, she meant exactly what she’d said, and retaliated by writing this in her blog:

I find it depressing that, in the midst of perhaps the most salient time in our country’s history, individuals are taking it upon themselves to encourage negativity and stupidity. Last week, Mr. Bill O’Reilly and some really classy sites (i.e. TMZ) insinuated I was dumb by claiming Sweden was a neutral country. I appreciate the fact that he is a news anchor and that gossip sites are inundated with intelligent reporting, but seriously people… it’s so sad to me that you think the only neutral country during WWII was Switzerland. I appreciate the name calling and the accurate reporting. Keep it up!

And yeah, I could have put a picture of O’Reilly up there, instead of one of Alba, but it’s almost dinner-time.

Another Reason to Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup is one of the chief supervillains in the fattening of the American populace. I’ve seen graphs which show how American weight started to spike steadily upward in the years since HFCS was introduced in the 1970s, and any good nutritionist can explain the reasons why (if you’re curious, go to this link, where it’s explained concisely and simply). Read over the ingredients of the food you buy very closely, and you’ll find HFCS in many surprising places. It ain’t good for you.

Now, it seems, it’s probably not just fattening, but toxic. As reported at Associated Content:

A recent report published in Environmental Health might make you rethink your next trip to the grocery store. Mercury was discovered in almost half of the samples taken from high fructose corn syrup used in commercial applications. Products by Smucker’s, Kraft, Hershey’s, and Quaker all tested positive for the toxic metal.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested 20 samples of high fructose corn syrup in 2005. Nine of the 20 samples had detectable amounts of mercury in them. Even though the FDA knew about this mercury problem four years ago, consumers were not informed, and no additional testing was ordered. A different study conducted by IATP, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, found mercury in almost one-third of 55 different products containing high fructose corn syrup as one of the top two ingredients.

What? The FDA under the Bush Administration didn’t bother to let the American public know about this? But they were usually so forthcoming!

bush-dumb

And what does mercury do to us? The piece at Associated Content sums it up:

Mercury ingestion can harm people of all ages, but it can be especially harmful to children, infants, and developing fetuses. Mercury can affect a person’s memory, fine motor and spatial skills, cognitive thinking skills, and attention span. It can also impair a person’s hearing, speech, and ability to walk. It can cause muscle weakness and make one uncoordinated, and can cause a “pins and needles” sensation.

In short, stay the hell away from HFCS.

The Dark Knight Snubbed

Last years masterpiece of noir superhero cinema, The Dark Knight, was not nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Christopher Nolan was not nominated for Best Director. But you know what?

It made a godzillion dollars (popular success), scored incredible reviews (critical success: 94% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, which averages all the reviews), and showed just how smart, topical, and arty a movie about superheroes can actually be.

Fuck Oscar. They haven’t been meaningful in any way except as a boost to advertising for movies in a long damn time.

Though I do hope Heath Ledger gets that posthumous trophy for his Joker, because he was awesome.