Posted by: mjss26 | August 24, 2010

Organic food revisited

People are confused about organics. I think minimum requirements should be built into a mandatory standard for anyone using the word ‘organic’ in their product labelling or ingredients or else risk fines for misleading and deceptive conduct.

No harmful pesticides or chemicals is top of the list, and if they want no-GM products then fine. I don’t personally see it as a problem as long as sufficient testing and research has gone into the impact of the modification.

Routine soil testing  at multiple points around the crops – essentially test near the borders separating any other crops that do use pesticides etc, as well as one test in the centre of the crop. And a sufficient soil depth dependent on type of crop needs to be tested to ensure that water run-off doesn’t affect any otherwise directly organic crops.

After all, one can hardly call one’s crop ‘organic’ no matter how pure the water you water it with – if next door’s toxic water is nourishing the crop from below.

Seems fairly basic to me. CSIRO involvement, maybe?

Posted by: mjss26 | August 23, 2010

Rambam medical journal – free online

Another piece of nice news. Rambam would likely have approved.

Posted by: mjss26 | June 18, 2010

Great moments in gaming – Part 1

Unlike Roger Ebert, I do believe that video games will become and in fact are becoming a legitimate art form. Certainly a legitimate form of entertainment – and will, if the money in it by comparison is any indication, will eventually overtake cinema as the preferred medium of entertainment, allowing players to empathise with a character much more intensely, when of course a powerful story is involved. Heavy Rain, in which four characters’ stories are interweaved, one of which is stricken with the urgency and painfulness of a lost child and the ‘Origami’ serial murderer involved in similar cases, is an example of where we can expect games to head.

Having said that, it’s also going to matter very gravely how people integrate the games they play into their choice of legitimate social life activities. The closest positive comparison would be karaoke — without parents insisting that games are played with family or friends, there will continue to be decreasing levels of social aptitude, increasing levels of stress, depression and feelings of isolation.

I used to be a relatively solid gamer, but am now quite happily a casual gamer, thrilled to share the triumphs within even a single player game with a friend or sibling using the ‘lives or levels’ rule. It actually helps you identify with the experiences of others, arguably more than a movie (because people close to you are undergoing an artificial setback or pain, rather than an , but less so of course than real life.

So with that in mind, here it is, in all it’s geeky glory: the games that shaped the man – played either alone for hour upon foolish hour, or correctly, with friends and family. Part 1.

Dune 2 & Commander Keen

* Dune 2 (1992)

Harkonnen, Atreides, Ordos Houses in Dune II

With it’s catchy, other-worldly music and effective use of voice files, and being the grand-daddy of all the classic real time strategy (RTS) games – what I call ‘god games’ because of the top-down camera angle and micromanagement of people and resources – it’s small wonder how enamoured I became with this game above all else. It had a simple, yet neat storyline, and you could play as one of three teams, each with special weapons typifying their house character.


I would still play this game today.

Read More…

After some time with his NYTimes op-ed rattling around in my head, I hold that Jews are special – not for their intelligence – but for their message of ethical monotheism. I’m sure Chabon wouldn’t disagree, either. But I regret that his piece’s title might give the wrong impression – something I wouldn’t like to compound on my blog.

Posted by: mjss26 | April 21, 2010

Smart shopper? most of us get taken for a ride

A while back I noted that chocolates were smaller and smaller, yet cost the same.

I also watched Dan Ariely’s presentation at a TED conference. [Side note, a video that should be good for the sceptics in all of us: James Randi’s the dude that offers a cool $1m to anyone that can prove they have supernatural powers]

In a move that makes me fear an economist has direct and constant access to my brain with all it’s linkages, Ross Gittins writes today on what is a rather more fleshed-out look on how we make decisions when shopping. It also gives us pause for thought when we propose to buy anything. Most of us at least desire, deep down, to be and to act smartly, and not remain dumb and vulnerable. Most.

Posted by: mjss26 | March 13, 2010

The ten most absurd published scientific papers

The Twenty Percent is carrying a story from Wired that some might be curious about.

Posted by: mjss26 | March 12, 2010

‘Get up, stand up’ or… Risk premature death?

Where the shtender comes into its own…
from comes the following fascinating piece based on recent research-

Beware of the chair
March 4, 2010 – 9:05AM


The time has come for office chairs to come with a health warning and ”upholstered, height-adjustable weapons of mass destruction” might not be too much an exaggeration.

evil chairSitting for prolonged periods – and, let’s face it, few places compete with the office when it comes to opportunities to park one’s behind – is now linked to increased risk of premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. It is also associated with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer.

What’s more, these risks are not necessarily mitigated by those few hours a week you might spend running, swimming or pumping weights at the gym. That kind of exercise is still important, so don’t stop, but sitting for prolonged periods appears to be a health hazard itself, much as smoking is a health hazard even if you also happen to be a devoted jogger.

The science is scary and has prompted some bosses to re-think how they make their office staff work.

Some of the most recent findings come from an Australian study published in the journal Circulation in January. It found that for every hour that a person spends sitting in front of the television, their individual risk of death from all causes rose 11 per cent, their risk of death from cardiovascular disease rose 18 per cent and their risk of dying from cancer, 9 per cent.

Professor David Dunstan, of Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and the paper’s lead author, is keen to emphasise that the research is not about TV watching per se but about sitting, wherever it might be. ”Television viewing time is a reasonable indicator of a person’s overall sedentary pattern,” he says. “Modern society has come to mean a lot of us simply shift from chair to chair throughout the day: seat in the car, the office, the couch at home.”

Several medical research bodies – including Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and, in the US, the University of Missouri-Columbia and the Mayo Clinic – have been looking into the specific mechanisms that link time spent on one’s bum with poor health. One is obvious and well-known: fewer calories are burnt, you get fatter and there are health consequences. The other is more insidious. It seems that muscle contractions – even very small ones such as those required to keep us standing upright – trigger important processes to do with the breakdown of fats and sugars. When we sit down, those muscle contractions cease and the processing stalls. The good news is they restart shortly after we stand up again.

“You increase your metabolic rate between 10 and 20 per cent above resting simply by getting up off your bottom – not walking anywhere, but simply standing up,” says says Dr James Levine, professor of medicine with the Mayo Clinic.

”And there is a whole cascade of metabolic [phenomena] that are activated within two minutes, perhaps sooner, of getting up and bearing your own weight. That cascade involves insulin receptor activation, lipo protein lipase [an enzyme that helps break down fat] activity and more. And these things are deactivated within several minutes of getting down off your legs.”
Read More…

Posted by: mjss26 | March 12, 2010

Portal 2: A worthy mention

Valve Studios will be releasing Portal 2.

This game is an appealing twist on your average shooter. You shoot holes into surfaces and travel through them to Portal 2enter different areas in a level. Shoot two portals and you can determine where you will pop out – try shooting the second hole into the ceiling and the first into the floor and you can imagine what would happen if you step into portal number one. You can even look through the first hole and see into the other, so’s you know what to expect – especially in terms of landing.

When a mate showed me the original Portal, I was mightily impressed. Highly recommend everyone check it out.

This via Slashdot:

cyberfringe writes “Classical music is being used increasingly in Great Britain as a tool for social control and a deterrent to bad behavior. One school district subjects badly behaving children to hours of Mozart in special detention. Unsurprisingly, some of these youth now find classical music unbearable. Recorded classical music is blared through speakers at bus stops, outside stores, train stations and elsewhere to drive away loitering youth. Apparently it works. Detentions are down, graffiti is reduced, and naughty youth flee because they find classical music repugnant.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

*Emphasis added. And lol.

Posted by: mjss26 | February 26, 2010

Life Lessons from Mr. Squiggle

Mr. Squiggle, the Man From the MoonMr. Squiggle had a wonderful attitude to the unexpected. You could hand him a blackboard with the most vulgar images on it and he’d say ‘No worries mate,” start humming happily to himself and proceed to draw in a rocket ship or the like.Blackboard
What a charming view to have inculcated into children from a young age – and subtlely so.

I remember when he’d say “Ooh, a tricky one!” and would absolutely love it, lived the challenge, and produced something such that most kids remarked, “Wow, how the heck did he see that… in there?” Mr. Squiggle – you’re my hero.

Remembering Miss Pat, Gus the Snail, and Bill the Steam Shovel, and of course, the immortal Mr. Squiggle. There’s a link to some clips here, and this is how the site owner describes the star, and full credit to the drawer – well done:

“Mr Squiggle was a show that encouraged children to draw.
I am sure that it must have inspired me to do so.
Perhaps I would not enjoy drawing so much without it.
Mr Squiggle was the kind of entertainment that I don’t think we see often anymore.
Gentle without being boring.
Funny without being smarmy.
Cheeky without being smug.
Simple without being moronic.”

I’d say that this show was one of the many things that made me, as a child, proud to be Australian. We need more of that, and its equivalent in Israel and around the world, too.

Rocket Ship

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