Saturday, December 12, 2009

Your Horoscope with our resident Astrologer, Madame Teakay: Sagittarius (November 23 - December 22)

Sagittarius - November 23 - December 22

Noble and considered, yet a fun-loving party-animal when called for, the first two weeks of December are when your nature comes into its own as the festive season gets underway. In short, you're one of those annoying 'I love Christmas' types who won't stop wishing everyone they meet a very merry Christmas whilst being blissfully unaware that most people they do this to are gagging to lamp them one. Never mind, though, because January's credit card bill will put you in your place. I'd advise sending them a monkey before the new Moon on the 16th so that you can avoid those stupid charges.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

When you're ill, why do you feel worse at night?

I feel like a hitherto undiscovered cranial dairy has made some kind of massive breakthrough regarding the efficiency of cheese manufacture and is producing more than my head can contain. As a result it has built up and is in the process of being forced out of all the major orifices associated with my noggin. Tripled with this are a general fog around my senses and a nasty cough that invariably results in chewable, bitesized but textually objectional nuggets of mucous.

Yes; I have man-flu.

The thing is I've had man-flu all day. And yesterday. And on Friday. During the evenings and night times I have felt pretty much as described above, but during the day I have been a little more able to function close to what is, for me, normality. Half an hour or so ago, as I was catching some of the runnier* produce of my skull-dairy, I started to wonder why this was, and had a quick search.

As always, what follows is the result of a few minutes' research on a subject I know little to nothing about. Please don't use it to make life-changing choices or as evidence in a heated, medically-themed debate. If anyone knows better, please comment!

I came across two ideas that make a little bit of sense to me. They are:
1. When you're lying down everything** redistributes itself around your body. For example, excess cheese manufactured in your head won't necessarily be fairly shared amongst your body parts by the workings of gravity. Instead, it just stays where it is until the forces of pressure conspire to force it out of your nostrils.
Except that I'm not currently lying down, and I still feel like someone's kneeling on my throat whilst forcefully emptying can after can of squirty-cream into my nostrils. Here's no. 2:
2. Your body is not a static thing. Throughout the day, various cycles are played out. Some of these involve different levels of hormones and other chemicals being manufactured, distributed, used up, excreted, ingested or defibrillated***.
It makes sense, to me, that different levels of different chemicals at different times should make you feel... different. It's not too much of a leap in the thought process to think that maybe that could have an effect on the way your body deals with having a cold (sorry; man-flu), or on the way that you perceive your symptoms.

Convincing, no? But while I was surfing through a number of responses to similarly titled questions, I came up with an idea of my own (at least, I think it's my own. I didn't wilfully plagiarise it from anywhere). I don't think this is a definitive answer; far from it. If it has any place in answering this question at all it's as one of many possible factors that all contribute to the same effect:
3. During the day you're generally busier than you are at night time****. For example, on Friday I was at work teaching all day. On Saturday I was wrestling my way through Lincoln's Christmas market for most of the day, and today I visited one my other-half's grandparents, visited one of my own grandparents' graves, and went for a birthday lunch with yet another. In the evenings I have generally loafed a bit; my attention has been allowed to wander from grappling with people who think maths is the worst thing in the world, people who think it's acceptable to blow fag-smoke in your face and people who can't quite remember where they live (respectively), to dwelling on my own miserable blocked-yet-leaky situation.
My point is that feeling crapper in the evenings than during the day may be due in part (large or otherwise) to the fact that you simply have fewer resources available for thinking about it when you're busy.

I could, of course, be completely wrong.

* Particularly mature Camembert or Brie? Or just some forgotten Dairylea, perhaps.

** Well, not actually everything. Your feet, for example, don't end up near your ears. Unless you're into that kind of thing.

*** Yes, yes, I know. Just checking that you're reading.

**** This obviously doesn't apply to night-shift workers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More on the global warming email 'conspiracy'

Just a couple of links following up on yesterday's post. Please pass them on to anyone you think would be interested, or even more importantly anyone who likes to talk about how climate change isn't happening whilst labouring under the delusion that they actually know what they're talking about. For the majority of you, these links are intended as alternative viewpoints to the avalanche of denialist claims that are doing the rounds on the interweb at the moment. I'm struggling to find anything that's even nearly as considered and reasonable from the camps of the climate change deniers, and believe me I've searched.

This is a post I've been waiting to read for a while now. To be more accurate, it's a post I've been trying to get my act together and write for a little while now, but Michael Le Page appears to have done it for me, and better than I could have. But then he gets paid for it.
In it, he addresses six points that we've all heard deniers spout, and explains clearly and calmly why they're all bunk.

It's a followup to this post, and goes into a little more detail and shows a little more of the passion that I've come to expect from Phil's blog posts in which he rages against the antiscience machine. It's fairly long, but I think that his main points are that context is key, and that any interested party should take care to consider what is available of the evidence* for themselves rather than simply following the loudest ranter, regardless of which side of the argument he or she is supporting.

* Remember, folks, something is not necessarily an established fact simply because it has been posted in video form on youtube.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Global warming is all a BIG DIRTY LIE!

30,000 scientists are gearing up to sue Al Gore over his Inconvenient Truth, and a hacker has exposed dirty rotten cheating and lying going on by way of exposing their emails to the world. This means that global warming isn't happening, and even if it is it certainly isn't caused by human activity.

This post is dedicated to everyone who read the above and did this:

I'm not going to talk about the distinct lack of evidence* that is put forward to support the claims being bandied around in the first paragraph of this post. I'm not even going to dwell on the fact that slurring the name of a scientist and saying horrible things about his mother doesn't actually make his claims false, or even poorly devised. I'm certainly not going to complain until I'm blue in the face about the sheer stench of the nonscience that's being flung from many of the corners of society that viciously grab and manhandle any conspiracy theory that happens to saunter seductively past their newspaper-clipping-adorned window.

I'm not going to do any of that because I'd just end up reiterating the things that other people are saying (a good place to start reading, if you're the kind of person that likes to take a balanced view of things rather than  grasping at conspiracy theories just because they sound cool, is over at Bad Astronomer).

My gripe is more to do with The Point. The point appears to have been lost, forgotten, misunderstood, or simply ignored by disturbingly large numbers of people.

The trouble with the idea of global warming is not whether or not it is happening**. Climate change (not strictly the same thing as global warming, but often bagged together anyway) is happening. Climates change; that's what they do, over time. The issue is with whether current warming rates are anthropogenic in nature. If human activity is, in part, to blame for global increases in temperature then, the theory's supporters say, we should be doing something about it.

But what? The ideas are many and varied, but in general, the sensible ones usually boil down to reducing waste: of energy; of resources; of time. Even if climate change is not being significantly accelerated by human activity, what is wrong with any of that? Why do so many people become almost apoplectic with rage at the thought of using less energy? Why fight so vehemently*** against conserving resources and freeing up time (in the long run).

Yes, there are many people who would seek to take advantage of such a situation to increase their own standards of living at the cost of others', but give me just one situation in which this would not be a risk! As with many ventures, reducing our own impact on the environment would incur certain risks, but it is surely a worthwhile goal even if that impact is tiny to begin with? If we are intelligent, considered and responsible, then we can reduce these risks to a minimum at the same time as increasing our return.

Reducing our waste means improving our efficiency, and improving our efficiency means that each unit of energy, resource or time that we have available to us is worth that little bit more.

And who wouldn't want a little bit more of any of those three things to play around with?

*Youtube videos are not evidence, in and of themselves.

** No, it isn't. If you are about to argue that global warming isn't happening at all, please re-consult your Usborne Book of Climatology and come back later.

*** If unconvincingly.