Meth fail

Have you ever wondered why you can’t by Sudafed at the chemist without a hassle? Sudafed and related medications contain a drug called pseudoephedrine which helps dry up your filthy snotty nose. Useful, but heavily restricted by the Australian government.  Why?

 

Because

 

  1. Pseudoephedrine can be used to manufacture methamphetamine, although I don’t believe this has ever been a problem in Australia.  But we have the laws because…

 

  1. Australia signed up to a free trade agreement with the USA, and one of the conditions was restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine. This condition was there because the US states had problems with meth, although over-the-counter pseudoephedrine probably wasn’t a major problem in the past…

 

  1. But now after many years of restriction on the sale of a useful and safe drug, it turns out that it hasn’t really made an impact on methamphetamine production and may in fact have made it worse with the result that it is now largely controlled by organised Mexican crime gangs.

 

  1. Nice one.

 

  1. Enjoy your snotty nose.
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Paleopragmatism

I think the Paleo crowd are right about nutrition, but accidentally.

I’m a pragmatic person – if something works well, I’m not too fussed by the ideology behind it, and trying to justify things that work in terms of ideology tends to go badly. I’ve always thought the anthropological argument for paleo was a bit iffy, mainly because there was such a huge variation in the diet of prehistoric populations due to climatic diversity, but that the practical application of it was pretty solid.

If you strip away the dogma, the Paleo crowd are promoting

– Lots of fruit and veg

– Lowish carb intake

– Lean, preferably wild, animal products

– Locally sourced, ethically farmed and environmentally sound foodstuffs

– Elimination of processed food and refined sugars

– A careful look at foods which may be allergenic or inflammatory for that individual

Unsurprisingly, people who eat as per the above guidelines tend to feel pretty good. Food is a very emotional topic for most people, so there are lots of strong views, and an appetite for elimination diets of all kinds. But leaving out any ideological arguments, the above guidelines are pretty sound nutritional advice for just about anyone. Most diets which promote long term health have these factors in common, so it ultimately doesn’t matter what bandwagon you prefer to ride. Michael Pollan simplifies it even further – “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.

Simple food rules like this aren’t as exciting as taking a zealous stance, but they’re difficult to screw up and simple to follow.

Napoleon the moral exemplar

Napoleon has had so many words written about him that he has become a byword for virtually anything you care to name. That has the added benefit of making him an exemplar of various moral lessons, which is useful from a human nature storytime point of view.

 

1. He didn’t know when to stop.  Conquering Egypt, Italy, most of Germany, and Austria repeatedly?  Fine. Walking to Russia? Bad idea.  Learn when to stop.

2. All process, no plan.  He was a furiously energetic person and undoubtedly good at what he did, but like a lot of military dictators (Caesar, Alexander), he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to achieve.  Conquer things certainly, spread the ideals of the French Revolution when it suited him, maybe.  But beyond that?  He put very little thought into the sustainability of his empire and the over-reach caught up with him.

3. He enthroned his incompetent siblings.  Don’t do that.

 

2 is very much a subset of 1.

 

Perhaps it’s better to be modestly talented with clear, trivial goals, than to be extravagantly gifted with no idea what to do with it?  I’d still swap places with him in a heartbeat.  Even retirement on Elba seems nice.

Obligatory Bowie post

I think that one of the main reasons the world is losing the plot about Bowie’s death is that he was a massive weirdo, right up to the bitter end.  Same with Lemmy, but substitute catastrophic quantities of substances for space-alien oddness. Both of these men lived their stage personas until they died.

Compare that to someone like Eric Clapton or Paul McCartney.  Despite being, in many ways, more influential and famous, I expect the response will be quite different. Although they had some weird times, McCartney and Clapton are basically pretty boring now.  They live clean in large country houses and pursue lots of hobby projects.  There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it detracts from the heroic mythos that they generated in their early days.

Right up until he died, no-one ever really knew much about Bowie.  He could have been any of his personae, and presumably was. He was a genuine cipher, on whom people could overlay their own ideas. Lemmy was just a lunatic. Both were larger than life and more perfect and complete people than you or I could ever be.

Post Christmas clutterfest

For the first time in human history,  we’re in the unprecedented situation of having virtually infinite supplies of material goods.  At no time prior to around the 1950s could the majority of the world’s population have more problems with clutter and storage than with scarcity and want.

 

This is good from a human flourishing point of view, but we’re now faced with the problem that 100 millennia worth of behaviour is now maladaptive.  We no longer need to hoard every made or found object or gobble all the food we come across – our problems are ones of excess.

 

It’s no surprise that we haven’t learned to cope with it yet.  In fact, the 21st century may be fascinating from a human culture point of view as we learn to cope with a suite of problems which we mostly invented ourselves.  At least two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse are slain, and one of them is looking quite shaky (according to Pinker, but not Taleb). But each deceased horseman contains the seeds of its successor.

Writing things on the internet

I always come back to writing things on the internet.  I think I’ve been at it since about 2002 in the days of LiveJournal, and I’ve migrated through a number of platforms since then.  I guess I’m just one of those people who thinks on paper (or on electrons) and once written it seems silly not to post it somewhere public.  That said I tend to get quite antsy if people want to start internet fights over what I’ve written or argue with me.  Once it’s down on the screen it’s out of my brain and I’m done.  I very rarely have an in interest in contesting my positions, especially when I feel like I’ve made myself clear.  I know this isn’t very scientific or enlightenment-minded of me, but there you have it.

 
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying – there may be posts. Feel free to block, unsubscribe, or ignore.  I won’t be offended, as this is mostly for my benefit.