Thursday, November 29, 2007


Journal keeping is a good way of collecting your thoughts and feelings.

- Fill in the top of each day's entry with the day, date, time.

- Write whatever you are feeling, don’t hold back anything.

- Keep your journal safe from prying eyes.

- Try and write something every day.

- You can write as if praying to God, talking to yourself, or to no one in particular, the important thing is that you write!

- Some people find it useful to have having a different focus for different days of the week e.g. Monday - family, Tuesday - exercise, Wednesday - reading, etc.

- At the end of each month, and each year, review your journal for recurring topics.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Planning for next year

Most new year resolutions are made in a haze of over-indulgence. Which is why they usually consist of vague plans to eat less and exercise more.

Why not schedule a couple of hours in the next couple of weeks, get a writing implement and some paper, look back on this year, and work out some goals for next year.

- Make measurable, achievable goals.

- Don't make too many.

- Make them over a variety of areas.

Keep the notes and refer to them at the end of every month in 2008 to assess your progress.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

DDT - busting some myths reports: [edited]

DDT is probably the single most valuable chemical ever synthesized to prevent disease. It has been used continually in public health programs over the past sixty years and has saved millions from diseases like malaria, typhus, and yellow fever. Despite a public backlash in the 1960s, mainstream scientific and public health communities continue to recognize its utility and safety.

DDT's delisting for various uses in the United States in 1972 was a political, not a scientific, judgment. After decades of extensive study and use, DDT has not been proven to be harmful to humans. But by 1997, its future looked bleak. Environmentalists were pushing for it to be banned worldwide, and its most articulate champion, the South African Department of Health, stopped using it.

Surprisingly, DDT recovered its reputation, and in 2006 the World Health Organization (WHO) championed it again. But celebrations have been short-lived. The momentum to increase DDT use has stalled for lack of increased political and financial support.

DDT, the scientific name of which is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, was first synthesized by Othmar Zeidler in 1874, but it was not until the 1930s that a scientist working for a Swiss chemical company discovered its insecticidal properties. Paul Mueller happened upon it when looking for an insecticide to control clothes moths. He sprayed a small amount of DDT into a container and noted the slow but sure way it killed flies. He wiped the container clean, but when he added new flies, they died, too. Mueller soon realized he had come across a persistent, powerful residual insecticide.

DDT was first used by the Allies during World War II to control lice-borne typhus. In October 1943, Allied forces liberated Naples as they advanced northward through Italy. A typhus epidemic broke out shortly after the liberation, posing a significant threat to both troops and civilians.

Dusting stations were set up around the city, and in January 1944, two delousing stations dusted 1,300,000 civilians. Within three weeks of the dusting (along with other less important treatment and vaccination programs), the epidemic was under control.

Malaria is a parasitic disease that has plagued mankind for centuries. Today the disease is mostly confined to tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but this was not always so. Until the 1950s, malaria was widespread in Europe and North America, and epidemics were even recorded above the Arctic Circle.

In 1898, Ronald Ross, a medical doctor stationed with the British army in India, discovered that mosquitoes transmit malaria. Shortly thereafter, a leading Italian zoologist, Giovanni Battista Grassi, identified the specific genus of mosquito (Anopheles) responsible for transmitting the malaria-causing parasite.

When used in malaria control, DDT has three separate mechanisms: repellency, irritancy, and toxicity, which together are remarkably successful at halting the spread of the disease. Repellency is the most important mechanism, and along with DDT's long residual time, it makes DDT superior to other insecticides. Its repellency qualities have long been known, but they have largely been forgotten by the malaria-fighting community.

Mosquito control officers in the United States used DDT in two ways: as a residual insecticide on the walls of houses and as a larvicide. The results were dramatic. By 1952, there were virtually no cases of malaria transmitted domestically, in contrast to the 1-6 million cases just a few years earlier. Of the 437 confirmed malaria cases in the United States in the first half of 1952, only two were domestically caught. Just as DDT was being used within the United States, it was also saving lives in overseas, within a few years of its widespread use malaria was almost unheard of in Europe.

Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring questioned the effect that synthetic chemicals were having on the environment. Her argument was that DDT and its metabolites make bird eggshells thinner, leading to egg breakage and embryo death. She also implied that DDT was a human carcinogen based on stories of individuals dying of cancer after using it.

In 1971, after considerable pressure from environmentalist groups, the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held scientific hearings investigating DDT. The hearings lasted for more than eight months, involving 125 witnesses with 365 exhibits. After many months of hearings, DDT was not found to represent a cancer threat to humans, to cause mutations in humans, or to threaten the development of fetuses. DDT was relatively benign, and the allegations against it did not stand up to scrutiny.

Although Sweeney ruled that any existing uses of DDT should not be cancelled, he was overruled in 1972 by the administrator of the EPA, William Ruckelshaus, who did not attend one hour of the hearings. According to a report in the Santa Ana Register quoting Ruckelshaus's chief of staff, Marshall Miller, Ruckelshaus did not even read the entire hearing report. The decision to cancel certain uses of DDT was essentially a political one without any grounding in good science.

DDT leaves stains on mud walls, which was the primary reason South Africa's malaria control program replaced the use of DDT in 1996 with another chemical class - synthetic pyrethroids - although pressure from environmentalists certainly contributed. What followed was one of the country's worst malaria epidemics. Over four years, malaria cases increased by around 800 percent and malaria deaths increased tenfold.

In 2000, the South African Department of Health reintroduced DDT. In just one year, malaria cases fell nearly 80 percent in KwaZulu-Natal province, which had been hit worst by the epidemic. In 2006, malaria cases in the province were approximately 97 percent below the previous high of 41,786 in 2000. DDT remains an essential part of South Africa's malaria control program, and the success of its use in that country has encouraged other countries in the region to follow suit.

For over fifty years, DDT has been on WHO's list of approved insecticides for use in vector control. It experienced a resurgence with reforms to WHO's malaria control policy in late 2005 when the then-director-general, the late J. W. Lee, appointed Arata Kochi to lead the malaria unit. On September 15, 2006, Kochi launched WHO's revised policy position on IRS. In his candid remarks, he explained how and why WHO had arrived at a position that strongly supports IRS and DDT:

I asked my staff; I asked malaria experts around the world: "Are we using every possible weapon to fight this disease?" It became apparent that we were not. One powerful weapon against malaria was not being deployed. In a battle to save the lives of nearly one million children every year - most of them in Africa - the world was reluctant to spray the inside of houses and huts with insecticides; especially with a highly effective insecticide known as DDT".

DDT is no panacea, but it has a better track record on malaria control than any other intervention. Lives are lost every day because of continued opposition to its use. With development and modernization and, perhaps, a vaccine, DDT will one day no longer be necessary, but that day is still a long way off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hate me all you like...

but Christmas is just 5 weekends away.

If you celebrate Christmas (or are forced to celebrate Christmas), then now is the time to start making lists (and checking them twice) of people to send cards to, buy presents for, etc.

And to buy cards, and to start writing them, a few each evening, rather than having to spend a tedious day (or two) writing them in one go.

And if you haven't got loads left over from last year, go out and get some wrapping paper and sticky tape now, before the prices rise and availability dwindles.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The power of two

Regular exercise can be a lonely and dispiriting business. Whatever the ads show you, it's not all smiles and vitality. An awful lot of it is about turning up and getting it over and done with.

Exercising at home is an attractive prospect, with no gym fees or travelling required. However, the majority of home gym equipment gets a week of usage before gathering dust in the corner of a bedroom or garage.

Working out with a partner has a number of benefits including:

- encouragement to turn up

- incentive to improve

- someone to banter with

- spotting partner for weights

If your 'partner' is fitter/stronger than you (or visa versa) this doesn't have to be a disadvantage, giving one person a target to aim for, and as the performance gap closes, an incentive for the 'stronger' partner to keep the gap open.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kitchen Essentials #1: The 1 Litre Pyrex Jug

Apart from its primary use as a measuring/pouring device, the 1 litre Pyrex jug makes an excellent microwave receptacle.

Being made of glass, baked beans and curry won't permanently stain it.

The glass handle remains cool enough to remove the jug from the microwave one-handed without scalding your hand.

Its squat form factor means it is unlikely to topple.

You can see the contents, allowing you to remove the jug from the microwave before they boil over.

And a porcelain/stoneware bowl makes a perfect, easy-clean 'anti-splatter' lid.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Keeping things in perspective

Life involves struggle. For most people reading this blog, it's far less of a struggle than for the majority of the people on this planet. However, we all have days when life seems particularly difficult.

Here's a simple checklist to help put things in perspective.

- Stop what you're doing.

- If possible, go outside.

- Fill your lungs with air. Slowly breathe out. Repeat.

- Consciously relax your shoulders and neck.

- Assess your situation rationally.

- Focus on the good things in your life.

Of course, this won't make the bad things go away. But it does help to 're-centre' you for the tasks ahead.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kill the apostrophe?

As someone who loves words, this web site made me think...

kill the apostrophe reports: [edited]

"This website is for those who want to remove the apostrophe from the English language, on the basis that it serves only to annoy those who know how it is supposed to be used and to confuse those who dont.

"Many of the calls to defend traditional apostrophe usage are little more than unthinking superstition. Its right because its right, runs the argument, failing to engage with the fact that its arbitrary.

"I suspect a lot of peoples prejudices on this matter are probably inculcated by humiliation at an early age, and leave victims frightened of the terrible social consequences they thereafter imagine will follow from deviating from the standard - this then becomes a self-reinforcing loop as they leap upon other peoples apostrophe 'misuse' like it matters, which it doesnt.

"The fact is that apostrophes are redundant and consume considerable time and resource and wed be better off without em.

"Yes, there are a couple of functional arguments in favour of what the apostrophe does in some limited cases..."


The site is worth a visit, it will either challenge or reinforce your presuppositions!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


50g blueberries
50g raspberries
15g raisins
15g almonds
15g walnuts
1 small apple

Washed down with 100ml apple juice, diluted to 300ml.

About 400 calories, tasty, a good mix of carbohydrate, fat, protein and micronutrients, and surprisingly filling.