Category Archives: Health

Objective sanity in a crazy world, or madness in a sane world. Probably both.

I was reminded of my byeline today.  A sane voice in an insane world or vice versa.  When I originally wrote this I saw the truth that lay within but largely wrote is out of a sense of humour.  The reason I was driven to think of it today was because of discussion of psychological disturbance in Oliver James’ book Britain on the Couch.

It shows how good my attention span is these days that I have taken to writing a blog by something that was mentioned at the beginning of chapter one.  At least I made it through the introduction anyway.  James describes the case of Jim, a lawyer who has led a fairly successful life and has had no history of mental illness.  He has reached the age of 33 and is progressing well in his career and is married to what sounds like a marvelous and intelligent girl.  Things begin to fall apart on a trip to Scotland with an old friend from university.

In Scotland Jim is convinced to try MDMA.  The result is a weekend of deep introspection that leads to a crisis.  Jim realises that his life does not hold the meaning he had previously accepted it did.  The MDMA seems to have pulled the trick of enhancing Jim’s world view so that he can look at his own life from a distance with a far broader viewpoint and what he sees leaves him in serious conflict.

That is as far as my attention span has so far allowed me to read, but it got me thinking.  Jim’s life is relatively successful but he has been conditioned like most of us to plug away at his job day after day as one of the cogs in the mechanism of society.  It is probable that Jim is giving himself too little credit for his importance but it has led him into crisis.  The crisis strikes me as being a sign of having been overwhelmed by an insane society.

We all need to survive and we do that by fitting into our niches the best we can.  Sanity is to conform to the standard set by everyone else around us.  If we look normal then we are normal.  When we stop being normal it becomes pretty obvious to the rest of the world.  We become the loony, the mad bloke that everyone avoids.  The problem is that in being normal we are conforming to a society that has no objective comparators in our daily experience.

If we look far enough we can see the example of many other different societies but largely they are all in as much difficulty as our own.  Corrupt politicians and collapsing economies seem to be a theme to most advanced societies.  In order to really make a judgement about the way in which a society operates we need to take years of study at university, perhaps even writing a Phd before our understanding is solid enough to take action.  Or we could pop some MDMA on a weekend away like Jim did, and then those years of understanding will hit home in about 20 minutes instead of 5 or 6 years.  It is hardly any wonder it caused a crisis.

The things about which Jim was concerned within his life were simply who he was.  They were aspects of his nature as a homo sapien and of the world around him.  The resultant neuroses was the natural response in someone who has not had the chance to build a coping mechanism to deal with the circumstances in which he found himself.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
This ultimately led me to realise that the world around us all is mad but only when held up in comparison to our ability to cope with it.  If we can cope with the world then it is relatively sane.  If we can’t cope with it then we appear to be insane, though really if the world is that difficult to cope with then it is hardly a shining example of balance itself.  Perhaps my byeline should read that I am a sane voice in a sane world and an insane voice in an insane world simultaneously.  Though that is far less catchy.

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In defence of Katie Hopkins? Wait, what?

Currently one of the most hated columnists/celebrities/presenters/human beings in the UK Katie Hopkins does have some fans though they are probably fairly demented.  She has far more enemies. She regularly receives death threats and is parodied by alternative press, and most people think she deserves pretty much every response she has so far received.  Not only that but she doesn’t care what people think of her.  In combination with no tolerance whatsoever for those who she criticises, she has a remarkably high tolerance for any negative reactions.

It seems that her detestable personality may have a physical basis and that it could shortly be affected by a physical procedure to be carried out by open brain surgery to cure her of epilepsy.  Hopkins claims to have attacks that affect her on an almost nightly basis.  This is extreme given that most epileptics would expect attacks perhaps twice per week.  The abnormal qualities in her personality are similarly extreme.

Bert Park describes one of the mechanisms of epilepsy as involving “An inability to assign appropriate emotional significance to external stimuli.” This certainly sounds like Hopkins, and describes her explanation of her behaviour.  In the same chapter on saints and fanatics Park also has similar suggestions to make as a partial hypothesis to explain the actions and behaviour of a number of figures through history who fall on both sides of the line of good and evil but are all linked together by the exaggerated emotional response to external stimuli.  Joan of Arc being one example and Adolf Hitler another.

I not only proposed that the Fuehrer suffered from gallbladder disease and Parkinson’s syndrome but also suggested that his personality disorder might have been explained on the basis of temporal lobe epilepsy

Interestingly when watching video of Katie Hopkins she does show herself to have similar mannerisms and exaggerated movements to those which Adolf Hitler uses in his speeches on film.

After the conclusion of her current television series Hopkins is to make a choice about whether or not to go ahead with the surgery to cure her epilepsy.  She has spoken of a fear that she may die during the surgery or lose the use of one or more limbs.  She also mentions the possibility that she may come around to find that she has a Welsh accent or has become a communist.  While these comments may be tongue in cheek there is a very real chance that her personality may be radically changed after the surgery.  It is wise that she waits till after the current television series as she may not have the same outspoken views afterwards. Although it is also possible that her attitudes may have become such an ingrained part of her brain that they will remain even after the instability has been corrected.

In general where surgery is successful it is likely that personality disorders will see some improvement, the improvement being greater, the earlier it is caught.  Hopkins is therefore taking a risk by waiting for work commitments to be ended, but then as she has made a career out of having an abrasive personality that is probably a considered choice.  At any rate improvement will likely be gradual and in different areas of personality.  The irritability and anger that power Katie’s rants is likely to decrease, as is the spontaneity that often gets her into trouble, especially some time after the operation when things have started to repair themselves.  Looking at past results it seems that it is the more severe symptoms that are likely to be most profoundly affected.  At Katie Hopkin’s age it will be difficult to have as major an impact as would be possible with a younger subject but over time the new way in which the brain works will start to have an effect on the existing architecture.  The gradual changes that appear in the first couple of years after the operation will continue to a degree in the future.

When Phineas Gage’s head was penetrated with an iron bar his entire life changed. He had lost substantially more of his brain than is likely to be removed in an operation for epilepsy. People said this is not Gage anymore.

It may be that whoever comes out of that operating theatre will not be Katie Hopkins as we know her. Her personality may grow to be so different that she will be deeply ashamed of the Katie Hopkins persona. Then again it is also possible that she may become even more Katie Hopkins than she is now.  Whatever happens it seems a bit too coincidental at this point that she has a brain disorder and she also has an obviously malfunctioning personality residing within that brain. If a new improved Katie Hopkins emerges from the operating theatre then we may be able to look back on her time as a columnist and see that what entertained and outraged people was an effect of her disorder.

The reason she is on television might be very much like the way in which people laughed at fools, madmen and dwarves in history.  In one episode of Blackadder the queen reminisces about the funny people with bells who made her laugh as a child.  When her nurses suggests “Jesters?” it is revealed that the queen was actually thinking of lepers.  One of the earliest examples of compensation for injury in the service of the crown was given to a man who fell from his horse, not because it was intended as compensation but because it amused the king so much.  The manner in which disability and injury was treated in past centuries seems abhorrent to modern civilisation, in a similar light to the way in which Hopkins herself often speaks on television.  It may be that in our blindness to their being an actual cause for her behaviour we are guilty of having a similar attitude to the afflicted of today simply because we are unable to recognise their affliction.  She may have a disorder that renders her entertaining and is therefore the modern equivalent of a court jester.  Because mental issues are so much less visible they are far easier to deride.  Mockery of physical disabilities is no longer acceptable, I guess until mental disorders and personality disorders can be more easily identified people will continue to be used in this way because the state of their mind is easy to mock and makes an audience drawing spectacle.

I am not a fan of Katie Hopkins myself and do not think she should be allowed to say the things she says on television.  Her opinions step beyond the boundaries of defensible free speech because they are abnormal.  She does not represent any valid opinions on the subjects she discusses.  I do look forward to seeing if the surgery will create positive changes for her.  I can only wish her the best in that regard because in wishing her the best we may also be free of the negative persona that she has inflicted on us since her time on the Apprentice.  She fears she may die on the operating table but it is just as likely that if she does then a far better Katie Hopkins will live in her stead.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/07/31/katie-hopkins-brain-surgery-welsh-accent_n_7910418.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/katie-hopkins-inadvertently-raises-over-22000-for-migrant-search-rescue-and-medical-aid-operation-in-the-mediterranean-10191985.html

http://www.ok.co.uk/tv/katie-hopkins-rape-threats-twitter

http://newsthump.com/2015/05/12/pope-admits-defeat-after-three-day-attempted-exorcism-of-katie-hopkins/

https://patients.aan.com/resources/neurologynow/?event=home.showArticle&id=ovid.com:/bib/ovftdb/01222928-200703020-00025

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17904823

Bert E. Park, Ailing, Aging, Addicted: Studies of Compromised Leadership , University Press of Kentucky.

Treatment of poisoning by amanita

Today I shall maybe saving the life of someone you know.  I might be saving your life but I assume that if you have the kind of mind that doesn’t mind wading through my writing then you are probably capable of making sure you don’t need saving.  Or if you are going to be killed then it will be by some means that I have no power to save you from.

 

I read today of one of the country’s first mushroom fatalities of the year.  Reportedly the culprit was amanita phalloides, the death cap mushroom.  The coroner passed a verdict of misadventure saying that there was nothing that could have been done, even had she been taken directly to hospital at the first indication of trouble.  The woman affected was very ill and there was no transplant organ available to replace the damaged one.

 

This struck me as being a somewhat political verdict.  Admittedly amanitas are fatal a lot of the time and admittedly there is very little knowledge about how their harm may be prevented.  However I felt the verdict was largely to protect the doctor that had been consulted at first instance.  Most doctors will probably never come across a case of amanita poisoning and if they do it is probable they will never do so again.  Due to this it is hardly surprising that most cases end in death.  There are a few treatments that are beginning to come to light but our ability to find more is probably scuppered by the fact that people rather sensibly do not eat all that many death cap mushrooms.

 

The first is that proposed by Doctor Bastien which has been used with a remarkable level of success since 1957 on the continent.  Dr Bastien has even had so much faith in his technique as to consume fatal quantities of amatoxins on two separate occasions in order to prove that it works.

 

“The treatment consists of giving, as soon as possible, intravenous vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 3 g/d, oral nifuroxazide 1200 mg/d and-dihydrostreptomycin 1500 mg/d. The three drugs are administered for 3 days during which time carrot broth is the only source of nutrition.  At the anti-toxic centres in France this treatment is combined with ‘the indispensable reequilibration of fluids and electrolytes and a course of penicillin.”

 

Beyond the mention of vitamin C I have little idea of what the substances are, but the important thing to remember is that this treatment appears to do the trick.  So much so that Dr Bastien is prepared to risk his life to prove it.

 

The second treatment is one which seems far more likely to become available in England.  The principle involved is that when the amatoxins enter the system they are processed by the liver, which is damaged by their presence.  The liver passes the amatoxins back out into the bloodstream but sadly some time later they once again enter the liver to try and finish off the damage they earlier began.  The only way out of this cycle is to have faith in the kidneys.  The kidneys have the ability to actually send the amatoxins out of the system so they can no longer do any harm.  The problem is that in order for the kidneys to do their job they need to be kept sufficiently hydrated.  The process is so lengthy that they often become dehydrated and death results.  The primary part of this treatment is therefore to keep the kidney’s hydrated.  In order to do this just make sure you get enough water.  Sadly many hospital treatments that are tried before the hospital realises what is going on will lead to further dehydration, e.g. pumping the stomach, which is ineffectual anyway as the poison has already moved on if it is causing damage.

 

The second part of the treatment is a substance called silibinin.  This is given intravenously and has the effect of maintaining the liver during this trialling time.  The substance is originally obtained from the milk thistle plant, silybum marianum, so if it is not possible to get to a  hospital on time then that would have to be your last/first resort as an alternative to being given medication.  Whatever happens always maintain your water intake to give as much support to your kidneys as possible.


There are other options such as plasmapheresis to cleanse your blood or an organ transplant if things have gone that far, which they do, very rapidly.  The most important and obvious way to avoid any complications though is to never eat any death caps, destroying angels, or galeriana’s.  If you do discover that you have been unlucky enough to have done so then make sure that before anything else you tell the doctor of this suspicion because these poisonings are rare and it is unlikely your doctor will realise this is what is ailing you if he is not told of the possibility.

How to avoid back pain when gardening. Why don’t people do this?

It recently occurred to me that there is a very easy way to avoid back pain when gardening which no one had ever thought to tell me.  After looking at a dozen or so websites I began to wonder if the idea had actually ever occurred to anyone else.  Despite spending what felt like a considerable length of time reading through the top search results on google I largely came across the same sort of advice, none of which included what now seems obvious to me.  It is almost as though the people giving advice had never actually done any gardening themselves.  Certainly the advice on offer is good advice but it seems as though everyone is just spouting the same wisdom that has been around for decades and no-one has made the link between gardening and modern techniques for preventing muscle damage.

 

The typical advice you will see is stuff that is worth doing along with the advice that I will offer you because any one piece of advice can always be helped by adding a little more positive advice.  Obviously you want to take a break when you get too worn otherwise you will find yourself doing more damage in the long run.  However, if you have a lot of space that needs digging or weeding then taking a break as often as you need might not be an option that you will appreciate.  Luckily I have worked out how to prolong the period before you are likely to be bothered by back pain.  In fact I have personally discovered that I end up having to stop out of exhaustion before the back pain gets to me, which feels like quite a feat considering how much my back used to hurt in the past.

 

Naturally you should make sure not to do your gardening without warming up first, and you should avoid letting cold breezes blow on your back.  So many times I have been absolutely fine until the point the wind blows and I have been hit by agony.  One tip that I particularly liked the look of is the use of a gardening apron that works something like a weight lifter’s belt to hold your back in shape.  I thought that was quite original.  Likewise I read a great deal of advice about bending knees when lifting and making sure to use the right size tools for your body shape, whether that be using a small spade or a long handled spade.  But nowhere did I see any mention of balance.

 

The way to avoid back pain when gardening that no one seems to have realised is to focus on maintaining a balance in the way you use your muscles.  Anyone who spends time in the gym working on weights knows the importance of balance.  In fact one of the main reasons that people progress to using weights instead of exercise machines is to maintain this sort of balance.  The problem with the machines is that they force you to continue exercising your muscles in a very rigid fixed manner whereas free weights allow your muscles to move in a far more natural way.  Gardening lies somewhere between these two.  On the one hand you are able to move in a manner which is far more natural as you are not tied into such a rigid pattern of motion as an exercise machine, but on the other hand people tend to enforce a repetitive pattern of motion on themselves anyway.  By escaping the repetitivity and lack of balance you will quickly find that instead of pulling your back out of place you will begin to pull it back into place.

 

My tendency when digging is to stand on my left leg and then use my right leg to push the spade into the ground.  I then apply pressure on the spade handle by pushing it down on my left hand side, before bracing and lifting the spade with the strength of my right arm whilst balancing the weight with my left arm.  Often the only additional advice that would be offered is to make sure that you do that lifting with the aid of your knees.  The problem with this is that after you have done a few dozen repetitions you start to feel your back aching and you have to stop for a break and stretch out your spine.  This is caused as you have some muscles getting tired more quickly than their corresponding muscles on the opposite side of your body.  My first thought was that this could be helped by exercising all your muscle groups in the gym.  That certainly helps to a degree because it does help to build up an energy store and create muscles that are far less easy to tire out, but most gardeners are too busy in the garden to waste time going to the gym.  It also does not prevent the imbalance that is the root of the problem, it merely delays it.

 

The technique that I developed was simply to swap my spade wielding hand every 5-10 repetitions.  When doing this I immediately found that I was exhausting both sides of my body at an equal rate.  This prevented the usual back pains because I no longer had one side with strong fresh muscles pulling on my spine and pelvis while the other side with tired worn out muscles was feeling to weak to pull back.  The sensation of making this swap felt unnatural at first.  As a right handed digger I had to try and teach my body a new trick.  It was a bit like learning to play pool or snooker with my left hand instead of my right hand, a trick that Ronnie O’Sullivan has used in the past and seemingly amazed the commentators with.  It immediately made a difference as it felt as though the aches were actually being pulled out of my be the usually troublesome opposing muscles.

 

Having tried this with digging I then decided that it would be a good idea to use the same technique with trowel weeding.  Many people overcome the problem of imbalance when weeding by putting both knees on the ground at the same time.  The difficulty this causes is that you then become far less mobile.  My tendency is to put my right knee on the ground so I started to alternate by putting my left knee on the ground.  Surprisingly this was far more difficult for me than alternating my digging stance.  When descending towards the ground my body tried to continue doing things as it always had and it we tricky adjusting the way in which I knelt whilst in descent.  As I became more adept at alternating my knees when weeding I began to discover the pain in my hips was far reduced as well as the pain in my knee and if I was picking up something I had unrooted with a spade or a fork I also found that the arm which continued to hold the spade/fork upright felt far less pain as well.


So it is as simple as that.  I am now far more able to dig for far longer without back pain.  In addition to reduced back pain I have also discovered that the energy I have available for digging is also increased due to using the abilities of twice the muscles.  It seems so obvious when you think about it but it is that initial habit of doing it in the one way that is hard to overcome.  It does feel unnatural when first trying it, a bit like juggling or rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head, but if you stick with it you will find that you will be able to do far more gardening work with far less effort.  You will feel far less back pain and you will no doubt be able to continue gardening into a far more advanced age.  This may also have knock on effects to maintain health into older age both through the exercise and the chance to continue eating your lovely homegrown greens.

Political point scoring? Politics by penalty shootout.

I am guessing anyone who has found their way to this page has seen Question time this week in which Shadow Cabinet Minister, Angela Eagle MP, was accused of political point scoring in demanding the resignation of Lord Freud for stating that those who were not ‘worth’ the minimum wage due to disability should be permitted to accept a lower hourly wage.

Lord Freud has been quoted out of context in many places.  In reality the question seems to have been posed by a father who was concerned about the future employment prospects of his disabled daughter.  Without this context the appearance is that Lord Freud is a heartless Conservative ogre with little respect for human rights.  I kind of get the impression that a similar description would suit most MPs so I am not going to dwell on it.  I have certainly met many MPs who have impressed me with their humanity but it seems that once they are given positions of power in the executive they have to make choices between their principles and practicality.  For a prime example of this I would consider the pleas to end ‘Punch and Judy Politics’ before the election by Mr Punch David Cameron.  Another example would be the pro-Europe attitudes of many MPs until UKIP started doing well, whereupon their principles were pushed to the back of the shelf.

Certainly one aspect of the Punch and Judy system of politics is that one must always try to stick the dagger in when the time seems appropriate.  Those who succeed in achieving positions of power seem to have got there partially due to this particular skill.  Naturally Angela Eagle would say that Lord Freud should resign; it is probably the opinion of most people in the shadow cabinet that the entire Tory government should resign, so that can’t really be held against her.  Of course she did seem somewhat surprised that her failed attempt on the point scoring goal seems to have been met with complete hostility by so many people that even those who agreed with her (all across the nation) quietly started examining a bit of fluff they hadn’t realised was stuck on their sleeve whilst feigning a moment’s deafness.

Since then there appear to have been a constant barrage of penalty shootouts against Angela Eagle for having used the opportunity to try and make Lord Freud look bad.  Aside from the fact that Lord Freud was doing perfectly well with making himself look bad already it is the Punch and Judy nature of her response that lost her the opportunity to make an extremely valid point.  In fact she did make the exact point she wished to make but it was completely missed on two occasions because the audience was too intent on scoring points against her for her attempt to score points.  The newspapers have now gotten hold of the political football and are hurriedly scoring political points all over the place.  Angela Eagle only tried to score one point and now there are balls flying all over the place.

The one thing she repeated which should have been heard was that it should not be an issue of money.  It was put to her that Lord Freud’s intent was fully reasonable and everyone knew what he had meant, as though what he had meant was eminently sensible.  Angela Eagle suggested that it was a weakness of the Conservatives that they always brought things down to the issue of money.  The point she wanted to make, at which she should have stopped, is that there could be other ways of doing things.  Employers could be shown how their businesses could benefit from the diversity offered by disabled employees.  There could be ways to balance the work done so that those whose abilities didn’t cover all tasks could take up the slack in areas where they might excel, whilst more able bodied workers could cover for them in other areas.  The efforts of disabled workers could be coordinated to make them more effective.  Fittingly this task could be done by someone who had knowledge of what it is like to be disabled, this would enable many disabled people to be employed in this capacity as well.

Some of those were my own ideas rather than ones put forward by Angela Eagle.  The point I wish to make is that she was right to the extent that all issues cannot be solved by simply throwing money at them.  Whilst one way to get employers to take on disabled employees would be to subsidise wages this is not an ideal solution in our current economic climate.  When all that is on George Osborne’s mind is austerity and saving money the first option in any situation should not be to pay out money to deal with every issue on the agenda.  Subsidising the wages of the disabled is akin to paying employers to make the disabled go away.  Whilst it is the disabled who should be getting paid for the work they are doing, it is the employers who are being paid to hide them from public view.  The system would be ripe for abuse.  At present there are a huge number of people with disabilities in employment and the reason for this is that it has been discovered that many people on the autistic spectrum are actually far better than mentally typical people in many technology jobs.  By subsidising the wages of the disabled, government would only be encouraging employers to continue seeking out the best candidates for positions at a fraction of the cost.  Large companies would become expert in sourcing the best candidates for the lowest prices.  Also how would government accomplish the task of grading each individual to judge how great a subsidy they should receive?  Throwing money at situations leaves them ripe for abuse by those who are most adept at abusing situations for monetary gain.

The most ironic thing is that it was a Labour politician who was complaining about the idea of government paying out more money versus a Conservative politician that was suggesting there might be a way of dealing with the issue by the government paying more money.  It is my belief that most of our problems can be solved through methods other than spending cash.  We have all heard stories where the official line in some organisation has been that things must be done in a certain way that costs hundreds of pounds while the people involved have been saying something like, “If you just gave me the £2.50 for the bus fare I would do it myself.”  Again and again we hear tales of ridiculous amount of money being wasted not because the system allows it but because the system demands it.  During the MP’s expenses scandal there were tales that the clerks involved in controlling the expenses were the ones making the suggestions of how best to take the most money.

There are many times in our daily lives when we can see the absurdity of pricing and costs with the implications that they will eventually have on our environment.  I could waffle on for ages about ways in which money could be better used.  I don’t think that Angela Eagle’s point was too difficult to understand; it was just too easy to miss, especially in the noise of the furor over her ‘point scoring’.  Behind the call for Lord Freud’s dismissal she did make a very good point, one I think could be listened too and adopted by Conservatives, Labour, Libdems, Greens, whoever.  Our first approach to solving any political problem should never be to simply throw money at it.  We are all short of money, government included, but one thing that we all have in excess is common sense, but most of us rarely exercise it.

Looks like I have to save the world again.

I feel like today’s post may be a long one.  There seems to be so much despondency in the world that I wish to address.  Mind you, Barack Obama says it has always been like this, it is just that we never had Facebook to keep us continually informed before.  On the bright side it has come to my attention that there are a huge number of people trying to make things better.  There are the heroes who go to the darkest most dangerous places of the world to try and make a difference and end up getting killed or imprisoned, but there are also the heroes that are making small changes to the world around us that barely anyone ever notices.  In the end I wonder which will end up creating the longest lasting difference.  I like the Tibetan Buddhist approach; it will all work itself out eventually, lets just wait and see.

However, I guess that is kind of point number one on my saving the world score today.  For all the harm in the world there is also someone somewhere who is trying to fix it, they are just not all that newsworthy.  Besides which, if you knew about all the good stuff then you wouldn’t need to go out and buy yourself treats to cheer yourself up, the economy would fall, and big fat suited men wouldn’t be able to enjoy the finest cognacs… as much as they would like.  Rest assured there is good stuff going on.

But don’t grow complacent.  People are sorting things out but it is a big world and it needs a lot of people to help fix it.  Point number two on my world saving scale is that people don’t worry too much about trying too hard themselves because they think one person can’t make enough of a difference, but one person times a billion can.  While that might sound a bit preachy, it is actually beneficial for the individual more than it is for the world.  That’s right, being selfish enough to boost your own smugness with good deeds probably helps you more than the world.  The improvement in your own emotional health has been shown to be dramatic. If however you do genuinely care about the world more than yourself do not fret because if everyone selfishly boosts their own smugness by doing good deeds the result will be a better world as well.  How is that for a win win situation.

When it comes to substantive problems one of the worst at the moment is that people are hungry.  A rise in poverty is causing a great deal of people to need food banks.  Whilst there are a lot more poor individuals out there than most of us feel confident enough to help there is a way in which we can do it through selfish self interest if we all get behind it.  It is nice that the way I have in mind also saves us money, it improves our health through helping us exercise, helping us eat better, and helping us avoid harmful chemicals.  If you haven’t guessed, this is a gardening blog post.

Number one on my list of fears at the moment is related to GMO food.  I say related because GMO food has the potential to really help the world and everyone on it.  If a plant was genetically modified to have a massive yield despite the weather and soil conditions not being as great as they could, and there were no side effects then this can only be a good thing.  The problem for me is that currently the number one genetically modified crop being tried out is Roundup resistant maize.  The first problem with this is that being Roundup resistant it becomes possible to soak this crop with Roundup in order to kill all the weeds that might grow around it.  Now while I may be able to think of many reasons why killing the weeds might not be the best plan, such as the fact that any pests now have no choice but to eat the maize, leading to necessity for greater use of pesticides as well, or the fact that this will diminish the biological diversity of the soil and necessitate the need for more chemical fertilisers, it is actually the Roundup itself that bothers me most.

Roundup is a herbicide and as someone who has suffered from digestive disorders due to imbalance in intestinal flora it has worried me that traces of it on food can kill the flora in the intestines.  I have seen charts that show a correlation between increased use of Roundup and increased hospital visits from people who have conditions involving the digestion.  I have also seen correlations between the heavy use of Roundup in third world countries and the increased depression and suicide of the poorly educated farmers there who do not take precautions against exposure.  If you want to find this information a Google search can easily uncover it.  At some future time I may seek out the links but do not have the time today.

As far as I am concerned I am not too bothered by artificial fertilisers.  A lot of them seem fairly innocuous, though I have no doubt there may be a few harmful ones.  Pesticides bother me less than they might bother other people.  Recent testing has shown that there are foods coming into our country that contain banned pesticides such as DDT.  The most recent report showed leading tea brands which contained a number of banned pesticides and permitted pesticides in higher than permitted quantities.  I think that this sort of thing is more of an exception and I don’t think it is as worrying as the herbicides.  Mostly because people assume something intended to kill insects is going to be more harmful to humans than something intended to kill weeds.  It is the herbicides that are not worried about that may get through in the kinds of quantities that may be problematic.

For this reason I have taken to growing food.  This has a number of obvious benefits.  It keeps me healthy and young to keep having to plant seeds and dig holes.  When research has shown that every additional hour of sitting in a chair after hour number one can knock 20 minutes off your life expectancy then gardening is a good idea if you would like an extra five or so years of life.  It has the benefit of exercising my mind.  An active mind has been shown to keep one alive and more healthy as well, how else do you think judges keep working into their 80s?  Learning different varieties of plants and their properties is far better mind exercise than sitting and watching NCIS marathons, which I have not managed to stop doing.  I need to visit doctors far less often because many of the things that ail the population are caused by things in their diet.  The blind faith that people have in modern medicine is akin to the faith that people used to have in religion or magic.  Whilst medicine is taking a scientific approach, it is still in the stone age compared to our technology.  While you can run experiments on computers in a matter of hours dependent on what you want to know, it may take years to run an experiment involving a human’s health.  Not to mention you would need hundreds of humans in the experiment to be sure and there are also ethical problems with human experimentation, and the impossibility of being able to conduct the kind of pure science one can conduct in the laboratory, and the fact that if you could then it would be largely irrelevant to understanding what happens in the world outside the laboratory.  Almost all modern medicines are derived from things that grow outside in our gardens.  Generally the garden variety is healthier than the distilled and amplified chemical variety.

If everyone was out there then everyone would be working their physical fitness, learning and stretching their brains, eating fresh food that maintains all its vitamins in the minute or two it takes to get from the garden to the front door.  Surprisingly even those who prefer to grow floral gardens rather than vegetable gardens are still growing huge numbers of things that can be eaten or used in some way that can benefit your health.  I remember hearing about one person who worked in a health food store and he was always amused by the fact that people would come in and spend several pounds on a bag of chamomile teabags with its associated CO2 equivalent in packaging and delivery, when right outside the door of the shop there was loads of organic chamomile growing wild and fresh.  If we cultivated our knowledge we would all be saving a few quid at his shop.

A big problem of our disconnect with plantlife is that fewer and fewer people have gardens now.  Fewer people consider it a necessity, they are quite happy to move into apartments or town houses.  If more people insisted on gardens then it would benefit those who did not make the cost savings associated with having a store of free food right outside their house because gardenless properties would drop in price.  Our selfishness therefore has begun to help those who do not garden straight away as their rent drops.  As we no longer need to buy so much from the supermarkets it means that the supermarkets will need to become even more competitive and drop their prices more to try and maintain the sales they currently enjoy; our selfishness once again helps those without gardens.  If less food is being delivered and packaged because we don’t want it then the environment benefits; our selfishness is beginning to save the planet.  If the environment is not deteriorating at the previously expected rate then more money that was being used to save the planet can be diverted into improving public services; our selfishness in smugly growing our own food for our own health and enjoyment is just causing no end of good in the world.  With millions of gardeners growing their own food and saving their own seeds the number of vegetable varieties will increase as new varieties adapt to different climates and become ever more developed for size, flavour, etc;  it looks as though even if we fail to fix climate change we will have plenty of plants that have adapted to it, thanks to our selfish insistence of saving money by growing our own food and seeds.

Like I said before, if only one person tries to make a change then of course there is no change but if everyone tries then solutions are not far away.  The important thing is to realise it is not a chore or a pain, it is something that will make you feel happier, more accomplished and healthier.  What I have outlined in this page is not enough to save the world on its own, but I’m not Superman and I think that it is enough of saving the world to satisfy me for one day. 

Gyms make you fat

Gym memberships make you fat.  This will be a moment of revelation that has been sitting in the back of many fat people’s minds who will now be punching the air with their pudgy fists shouting “I knew it!”  This does not mean gyms are a bad thing.  Gyms could be awesome if you didn’t need to sign into a yearlong contract that will probably steal money from you for far longer than that.  If it weren’t for that I would probably be in the gym all the time.  I would think to myself, “I fancy a work out”, and I would go down and do ten or fifteen minutes and then leave feeling better about myself.  The problem is I can’t do that because I don’t have a gym membership.  If I did have a gym membership then I would think, “I am spending £40 per month on that gym, if I am going to get my money’s worth then I will have to stay in their for at least an hour.  I can’t be bothered to do that, I think I’ll go to the pub instead.”

 

If you have immense will power then you can use the gym everyday and make sure that you are getting your money’s worth.  But if you do then you will realise that by the end of your contract you have spent several weeks, in which you could have been earning money, staring at a wall, or a t.v. screen if you are lucky, having paid £500 odd quid for the pleasure.  For the rest of us we will have spent that £500 on using a few machines for a couple of hours and then not bothered going again because we were too busy.

 

The way to lose weight is not to go to a gym.  Gyms are not for fat people.  Gyms are for thin people who enjoy gyms, vapid though they must be to endure such mind numbing boredom year after year.  I suppose one of the things that keep them coming back is that gyms are a great place to meet similarly vapid, slim beautiful people.  Yet more evidence that gyms are not for fat people; fat people would ruin the whole gym culture.  The only part that fat people are supposed to have in gym culture is turning up on the 2nd of January and giving their credit card details, and maybe spending some money on some huge shorts and t-shirts in the gym’s shop before sodding off and allowing the thin people to enjoy bouncing around on their subsidised gym equipment.

 

I read all the time about the things that don’t make you thin.  Diets do not make you thin; it has been shown that when people diet they bounce back afterwards to even greater levels of obesity.  Sweeteners in your coffee do not make you thin; if you have sweeteners in your coffee then everyone knows that you are allowed a slice of cake with your coffee, meaning that you end up getting fatter, not thinner.  Exercise does not make you thin; if you exercise then you get hungrier, you eat more, you get fatter.  Gyms are part of this whole failing to get thin that is a part of modern life.   If you want to get thin then the only way you are going to do it is by stopping being a fat person.  You do that then you won’t need a gym because you won’t need to lose weight.

 

This sounds harsh until you realise that I do not mean a fat person as in a person who happens to carry a lot of fat.  That is not what a fat person is.  Thin people can carry a lot of fat.  This may make them look like fat people but they will never truly fit into the fat people culture because as soon as they stop trying then they will suddenly lose all that weight and become thin again, and this is why we hate them.  A fat person can also lose a lot of weight and he will look like a thin person but as soon as he stops putting the effort in he will put on a lot of weight and look just as fat as ever he did.  This is another reason we hate the thin people.  However, the shocking truth is that fat people are evolutionary winners.  We are designed by nature to store massive amounts of energy so that we can survive harsh winters.  We can gain far more energy from our food and we can accomplish far more on less energy.  We are natural athletes and warriors in a world that has found a new way to kill us.

 

The good news is we do not have to take this lying down.  Forget the gym; if your wallet is fat then maybe they can help you but if you are fat then your solution is simple.  You need to change the way you live your life.  It sounds harder than it is.  If you start to eat healthily then maybe you will not enjoy the food at first but after a while your body will reward you for making it healthier; you will find that you enjoy the healthy stuff far more and you will dislike the unhealthy stuff much more.  Of course you will have to put in a bit of effort.  When you are eating something you really like then try stopping eating while you are able to sit in an armchair without feeling pain from the massive bulk sitting in your stomach.  Maybe you don’t do this anyway but plenty of us do.  Sure you could eat for a couple of extra minutes, it is so delicious, but then think of all the extra years at the end of your life that you could eat delicious food that you would never be able to after having a coronary.

 

Aside from this try walking a bit more.  If you live within 4 miles of your workplace then it is not too difficult a walk, and even quite enjoyable if you are listening to an audio book.  You can learn languages that way.  You can read books whilst walking around the park.  Thing how enjoyable it would be to spend a few hours out in the fresh air and sun as well.  If their is an elevator then take the stairs.  If you are getting shopping then use the full shopping bags as dumb bells while you are walking.  Make your life active; that is the way to lose weight, then you don’t need a gym.

 

I decided to stop using a gym about 6 months ago.  Admittedly I wasn’t using it for anything other than a way to get rid of some of my wages every month.  Since giving up the gym my life has changed slowly but I am gradually turning into a thin person.  My mother remarked as she gave me a hug goodbye today that she could not only reach her arms all the way around me but she could almost touch her elbows as she did so.  A big change from not even coming close to touching her fingers together six months ago.  I have lost a massive amount of size around my stomach;  I have not lost so much around my waist, that has only dropped from 42” to 36”.  Weight wise I have not lost much at all.  If I were to go to a doctors I imagine that many nurses would tell me I was obese as I weigh almost 17 stone.  I would just laugh if they did though because most of that is muscle.

 

This change has come about without weights, without gyms, without bizarre contraptions.  All you need to do is be more active.  If you are sitting down then stand up.  If you are standing up then walk.  If you are walking then cycle.  These are not rules that you will have to live your life by for ever.  Once you understand the rules you will know how and when to break them.  These are just guidelines to get you moving in the right direction.  Gyms are not necessary.  Even sports are not necessary.  One of the hobbies that has helped me get thin best is photography; you have to walk to a nice place to get a nice photo.  That is how you are going to get thin, just live life in such a way that you naturally end up that way.  It is easier than you think, and it is even a little addictive.