Smoking banned in England: bedtime for democracy

June 29, 2007

On 1st July 2007, it becomes illegal to smoke in buildings that the public have access to – in workplaces – basically, in every enclosed space in England! For years, pubs, cafes and restaurants have had “smoking” and “non-smoking” areas, workplaces have had smoking rooms for employees who fancied a cigarette with their coffee during breaks… but they’re going to be illegal too! Employers can provide outdoor smoking areas if they want, but these areas must be “not enclosed or substantially enclosed” – ie. a lean-to, open to the elements, so smoking will be as uncomfortable and inconvenient as possible. And work vans! Suppose you’re a delivery driver, whose work day involves you driving round by yourself, never sharing the air you breathe with anyone else – it will be illegal for you to smoke in your van!

Okay, so smoking is bad for your health – and for the health of those who you smoke around. But smoking areas in bars and cafes, and smoking rooms at work, pretty well answered those concerns. If you didn’t want to get cancer from passive smoking, you didn’t go into the smoking areas. What the hell was wrong with that? I’m not a regular drinker, but when I do go out for a pint I like to have a smoke with it. I don’t often eat out, but when I do, I use a nice cafe that has “smoking” and “non-smoking” areas, so when I’ve finished stuffing my face I can enjoy a coffee and a cigarette. All without bothering anyone, as people offended by smoking would be seated nowhere near me. Well, that’s how it used to be… from now on I’ll be eating in cafes very very rarely, I’ll be using pubs only when the weather’s nice enough for me to sit out in the beer garden… and I bet there are plenty of other people who will do likewise.

Yes, smoking is a disgusting habit which may well kill me. But it’s my life. I don’t impose my nicotine habit on other people. But our wonderful liberal democracy, with its celebrated individual freedom of choice, is clamping down on me more viciously than the Stasi! Next, if I do have the misfortune to get lung cancer or some other “smoking-related disease”, the NHS will probably refuse to treat me! I’m so lucky to be living in the Free World…

Meanwhile, record numbers of children are coming down with asthma… not because of passive smoking, but due to emissions from motor vehicles. Yeah yeah, cars is different. The internal combustion engine is essential to society’s progress… except a huge proportion of car journeys are absolutely nonessential. When I was a kid, most children walked to school, or cycled, or got the bus if it was a really long journey. But nowadays, just about every kid is driven to school – even if it’s just a five minute trip. How many lives are going to be cut short by this uncalled-for pollution of our atmosphere? But God forbid the politicians actually do anything about the real problem! No, just demonise smokers even more, make us into lepers and pariahs… why not stop us from smoking in the street, or in our own homes? Why not ban tobacco, and execute the nicotine fiends?

Don’t fret about the important issues: Iraq, climate change, poverty… fucking with smokers is much more fun.


Ubuntu founder says SCREW YOU!! to Microsoft “deal”

June 20, 2007

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has said there’s no chance of Ubuntu giving in to Microsoft’s protection racket.

http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/K8HEdxWd1Ut6TR/Ubuntu-Founder-No-Microsoft-Deal.xhtml

Novell, Linspire and Xandros have all signed up to Microsoft’s “interoperativity” deal – basically kissing Bill Gates’s ring in return for a promise that Microsoft won’t sue them for patent infringement – but Shuttleworth’s too canny to fall for such a blatant confidence trick.

You’d think it would be obvious to everyone.  Microsoft claim that Linux infringes 238 patents – but won’t specify what these patents are.  Ubuntu and Red Hat are saying “Put up or shut up!”  And Billy-boy still won’t say, he’s just trying to make threatening noises.  Dickhead.

If Microsoft don’t specify the patents, Ubuntu can’t stop infringing on them.  So Microsoft is perpetuating the situation.  Of course, Billy-boy says the only solution is to sign up for his deal.  But that’s a bunch of crap – the real way out would be for Microsoft to spell out where Linux code infringed on these patents, then Linux hackers could code work-arounds.

I can understand Xandros and Linspire falling for this dumb-ass trick.  Xandros has never been a true part of the Linux community, they’re just out to make a buck off other people’s work.  And Linspire… well, they used to be called “Lindows”, and their “unique selling point” was making Linux look and act like Windows… ’nuff said!

But Novell… hell, those guys have been in the business a long time, they have plenty of experience.  I guess maybe their surrender convinced the other weak hearts to crap out… and that makes me wonder all the more why Novell succumbed…

I’m not saying bribery and corruption.  No way am I saying that!


The world resumes support for Palestinian Authority

June 18, 2007

Now that a new government in the West Bank has been established – one that does not contain members of Hamas – the rest of the world, even Israel, has said that it will resume political dialogue, international aid, etc. You can read about it at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2105683,00.html

An excerpt:

“The EU said today it would resume financial aid to the new Fatah-led Palestinian government, as part of international efforts to isolate Hamas in its Gaza stronghold.

“The EU, along with other western donors, cut off aid after the Islamist movement won a general election in January 2006, maintaining the embargo even after ministers from the secular Fatah organisation joined a new unity government this March.

“As well as the EU resuming relations, Israel has said it will begin providing fuel for the West Bank again, and will release millions of dollars that it had seized when Hamas formed its government.”

I find this whole affair quite revolting. The “free” world makes much fuss over the idea of democracy – states that are undemocratic are internationally reviled (unless they have something that the USA wants – like oil – but that’s another story).

So, the Palestinian held elections that international observers concede was free and fair. Hamas, an organization denounced as “terrorist” and which is highly anti-Israel, won that election and formed a government. This was all free and fair and democratic – but the rest of the world declared that it would not deal with such a government and severed all links.

Even when they formed a “National Unity” government in partnership with Fatah, most of the world didn’t want to know. For instance, Israel said that it couldn’t deal with an organization that did not recognize their right to exist, that was committed to the Jewish state’s destruction.

Everyone was studiously ignoring Hamas’s statement that it would honour all treaties and commitments that previous Palestinian governments had made – a tacit recognition of Israel’s validity.

I’m not condoning the acts of violence committed by Hamas. But I am trying to draw attention to the hypocrisy with which the world has treated the Palestinian people. Because the Palestinians voted for Hamas – they wanted to be ruled by Hamas – but the rest of the world made it impossible for Hamas to do its job.

If the developed world are going to hold up democracy as the universal ideal, they must follow this belief consistently. It’s no good saying “Democracy’s the only way… as long as you vote the way we want you to.” That’s international dictatorship, neo-colonialism, and should be stamped out, ruthlessly, whenever it raises its head.


iTunes: anti-piracy = anti-privacy

June 16, 2007

ipoditunes-tv-ad_top1_20070109.jpgApple iTunes has stopped including DRM in the music they sell. So now there is nothing stopping an evil pirate posting his tracks to a P2P network, allowing his music files to be downloaded and enjoyed for free by millions of people who haven’t paid the copyright holder a penny.

But isn’t quite simple: the unprotected music files contain a “watermark” that identifies who bought the track. So, if copyright investigators find in a P2P network a file with your name on it, they’ll know that you are a pirate!!

No doubt some people admire Apple for this deft handling of the piracy problem. But this system is infringing on the privacy of every iTunes customer. The Guardian newspaper reported on this:

http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2101811,00.html

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is an organization that campaigns for robust online privacy standards. They are appalled at Apple’s irresponsible behaviour. EFF spokesman Fred Lohmann said “There’s absolutely no reason that it had to be embedded, unencrypted and in the clear. Some of the privacy problems, in light of this, is that anyone who steals an iPod that includes purchased iTunes music will now have the name and email address of its rightful owner.”

And there’s another potential problem: if that thief posts your files to a P2P network and the copyright cops swoop, you will be identified as the pirate. And I’m pretty sure they hang pirates…


Mmm! Antihistamines!drugs

June 16, 2007

benadryl2.jpg

It can be really hard for a drug user to get tranquillizers, benzos and sleeping pills from his doctor. Once the quack knows you are a recreational user, he will often refuse to prescribe anything that has a pleasurable side-effect.

But don’t panic! There is a drug that has sedative effects yet is available over-the-counter from any pharmacist’s. This wondrous substance is the antihistamine!

Not all antihistamines are sedative. Some sufferers of hay fever moaned about their medication causing them to fall asleep while driving and other such trivial complaints, so the pharmaceutical manufacturers created a “non-drowsy” variety. God knows what use there is for a “non-drowsy” anything (except amphetamines I guess), and they have caused problems for people experimenting with these legal highs. For instance, there is an anti-allergy drug called Benadryl which, in the USA, contains the drowsiness-inducing antihistamine diphenhydramine – but in the UK, the manufacturer has used the non-sedating acrivastine. So, if you’re going to use internet resources (like the Usenet newsgroup alt.drugs.hard) to find out which products are worthwhile, it’s important to check the ingredients used in your county’s version of the medicine.

Anyway, diphenhydramine is a sedative that some people find enjoyable. For instance, I have heard of someone who swears by injecting the US version of Benadryl! Now, I wouldn’t advise anyone to do this – for one thing, these medicines will rarely be pure diphenhydramine, and the other ingredients may have grave effects when injected. But anyway, back to having fun with the stuff… I’ve already mentioned that Benadryl in UK isn’t sedative. But there is an OTC sleeping pill called Nytol, which contains the elusive diphenhydramine. If you want to try this, get the “one-a-night” variety of Nytol as it contains a higher dosage.

I said that some people find diphenhydramine enjoyable – there are others who hate the stuff! Consider, for instance, what Wikipedia has to say on the subject of its recreational use:

“Those who use diphenhydramine recreationally take a higher dose than recommended dose (usually between 225mg and 450mg) for its deliriant effects. Diphenhydramine also is a component of the recreational form of heroin known as “cheese” or “chiva”. The mental effects are described by many as “dreaming while awake” involving visual and auditory hallucinations which, unlike those experienced with most psychedelic drugs, often cannot be readily distinguished from reality. Diphenhydramine generally has a low abuse profile due to the frequently unpleasant nature of the hallucinations. People who consume a high recreational dose can possibly find themselves in a hallucination which places them in a familiar situation with people and friends and rooms they know, while in reality being in a totally different setting. Inexperienced users of hallucinogens are liable to panic.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diphenhydramine#Recreational_use

Helen Leszke, in her blog “Open Door”, also describes unpleasant side-effects from prolonged use of the stuff:

“Figuring that taking an antihistamine that caused drowsiness couldn’t hurt when I was having trouble sleeping, I began taking the minimum dosage about twice a day (one caplet twice a day). One of the times I took it was, of course, right at bedtime. After about three or four days of taking tiny amounts of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine), I started to notice some strange occurrences with my sleep pattern, moods and one or two dubious physical symptoms.

“Firstly, as opposed to just waking through the night several times as had been the original problem, I had now begun to be physically and mentally UNABLE to sleep. It took me an hour or more on average to get to sleep – and when I woke through the night at about midnight or 2am I-WAS-WIRED. AND-I-MEAN-WIRED. I would wake, look at the clock, feel like I wanted to jump out of bed despite being dog-tired and be totally unable to just turn over and get back to sleep. I tossed and turned, STILL had trouble breathing, slept for a couple of hours on the sofa one night (in with the A/C unit), had to get up to do SOMETHING – ANYTHING.

“Secondly, every time I would sleep for a couple of hours and wake up – I would also wake up with an absolutely PARCHED mouth. I mean like I had been drinking……HEAVILY. I was continually reaching for glasses of water beside the bed to moisten my otherwise arid pallette.

“Thirdly, I had a nagging headache that just wouldn’t shift no matter what I tried. It was just bad enough to be constantly on my mind but not bad enough to be continually popping aspirin for.

After about a week and a half of not sleeping, I started to wonder what was REALLY going on with me. I was getting worse and worse – instead of naturally gradually shifting out of a temporary insomnia and back into a regular sleep pattern as had happened to me many times in the past. My allergies and nasal breathing problems had not shown any improvement, either. I began to cut out iced tea in the afternoons and evenings – wondering if my caffeine consumption was the root of the issue – but it wasn’t. I don’t drink that much of it anyhow.

http://stormskies.com/OpenDoor/?m=200608

So, this Benadryl/Nytol affair really does seem to be a horses for courses type thing. My personal experience has been fairly positive: taking twice to three times the recommended dosage would result in a pretty pleasurable sedated feeling. Nothing to write home about, but okay when nothing better was available. But it really dried me out – I’d be thirsty as all hell, my mouth would be dry, and I’d have spent a quite a bit of time pissing. Not bad… but not great.

nytol_one_a_night_16x.jpg

DISCLAIMER: If you have a crappy high or some freaky hallucinogenic shit happens, don’t try blaming me. I’ve pointed out all the pluses and minuses I could think of. And anyway, you’ve got a mind of your own… I assume. So whining that “IHateHate told me to do it” ain’t gonna get you nowhere!

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Drugs are bad…

June 15, 2007

reefermadness.jpg

A Government health warning, probably

Of course drugs are bad! How can anyone even doubt it?

Cannabis is highly addictive – and its use inevitably leads to moral inturpitude, irreversible brain damage, permanent psychosis, then finally massive internal organ failure and death.

I heard this from the resident right-wing moron in my local bar, so it’s gotta be true… right?

On a more serious note: a while ago the government here in the UK reclassified cannabis: it used to be a Class B drug, now it’s Class C. This means it’s possession, etc, is seen as a less serious crime – in the old days, if the police caught you in possession of a smoke, they’d arrest you; now, they may just “report” you and a summons to magistrates court might come in the post some time later – they may even just tell you off and take no further action! This was done because of the heaps of evidence that cannabis isn’t addictive, has few health risks, it doesn’t automatically cause users to “graduate” to heroin (despite what my pal the resident right-wing moron and his ilk would have you believe) – in short, it’s as “harmless” as drugs get… less harmful than those good old legal comforts tobacco and alcohol. But now the UK Government is thinking about making cannabis a Class B drug again. And why? Because of “new evidence” that the so-called extra powerful strains of weed like skunk and Northern Lights might occasionally cause mental illness in people who are predisposed to such conditions.

So, the idiots in the government might erase the good they have done, and get back to criminalizing generations of youths who would never dream of committing a crime other than smoking dope.  And why?  Not because of this “newly-discovered healthrisk”, that’s for sure.  “New” Labour has got where it is by pandering to  “middle england” – a group of people who are conservative in nature, born right-wingers, who hate evil liberal ideas like letting folk do what they want if they’re not hurting anyone else.

“Let people take drugs?!  Nooo!  It’s nasty, make baby Jebus cry! Stop them stop them STOP THEM NOW!!”  Sheesh!!! I guess common sense isn’t a requirement when applying to become a politician.


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