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Odd things seen around town

- a place in Bristol city center where people can have their feet nibbled by Turkish fish (http://www.doctorspafish.com

- a lady at my local hot-tub place sitting in the outdoor tub, listening to music on her phone (!)

- Cadbury's Halloween offering of "Screme" eggs, with green filling

Posted via m.livejournal.com.

subtitle: Why Equality is Better for Everyone

Every so often a scientific study comes out that makes you say, "I can't believe they actually had to spend money on this to find this out - it seems intuitively obvious." Authors Wilkinson and Pickett have collated many studies of this sort and have drawn some less-obvious conclusions: namely, that many major health and social problems - from teen pregnancy to ever-increasing prison populations - in the developed world are more common in societies with unequal distribution of wealth.

The authors argue that countries with vastly different cultures, such as Japan and Sweden, consistently show lower incidence of such problems because their distribution of wealth is more equal. Even their methods of achieving greater income equality are different: Japan has less wide variation in salary levels from labour to management, while Sweden has high tax rates that compensate for pay differentials. The English-speaking world, while having often greater overall per capita incomes, also has the highest levels of inequality and thus the most severe social disruption. The US is indeed "number one" in this dismal competition, followed not too distantly by the UK.

The same analysis applies to the various US states: the increased inequality goes hand in hand with increased social disturbance, and again the states that do best have less in common than one would expect - other than a more equal income distribution. Alaska, Vermont, and Minnesota all perform well, while Louisiana and Mississippi trail along behind.

I found one of the most compelling features of the book to be the authors' concrete suggestions for tackling inequality: either increasing taxes on the rich or bringing their incomes down to more sustainable levels. Common sense, but nobody seems to want to say it or hear it. The authors have also set up a trust to promote equality, which is a benchmark of their sincerity if nothing else.

Unsurprisingly, their ideas have recently come under attack by right-wing pundits who dispute their statistics, their qualifications, and their good faith. To me this suggests that they've struck several really sensitive nerves.

For a quick 10-minute intro to the book, check out the authors' video at the bottom of their homepage.


Thoughts on tech

Please excuse the spacing - writing this on a phone keyboard.

So I'd beenthinking about upgrading my phone to something I could actually
answer emails on. I don't get along with touchscreens; something about my
fingers, I guess - too cold, maybe. This neatly disqualified anything starting
with a vowel and ending in "one".

I tried a Nokia N810 I found lying round the place. I liked the keyboard but the
touchscreen was still not my friend. I had to poke it with a makeshift stylus to get
its attention.

I'd have been happy with a Blackberry if it had a decent camera, but they don't. It
took me weeks of agonizing to find a solution: the Nokia E72 on pay-and-go. I've
had one for 3 days now and I've more or less got the hang of the basics at least.

To be fair, it would've been easier if my cell phone company had been supporting
the handset more than a week or two, and if the manual had been written with
actual newbies in mind.

Of course, I've also been dealing with email access problems. Well, ability to answer
email from my personal account and actual total lack of access on the other. Lots of
fun. But an end is in sight.

I've set up gmail accounts for both, have arranged forwarding for the business
email, and will be setting it up for the personal stuff tonight if all goes well. Then I'll be able to start
using everything to actually get stuff done. :)

Possible solution to computer problems

So I've been having serious trouble sitting in front of a computer for a couple of months now. Eyes check out OK, etc. I had just about decided I'd suddenly developed an allergy to keyboards when I read in a book somewhere that simply facing in a particular direction could be affecting me badly. I knew that I hate working in my designated office space and always want to bring my computer downstairs where I can sit by the windows facing the garden, but couldn't figure out why.

I tried taking my laptop out of the fancy-schmancy wooden computer unit that I normally use it in, and rotated my chair 90 degrees, so that I could 1) see out the window and 2) not be staring into a dark space. Suddenly, everything was much easier! Checking online, it seems that my previous work position violated about 4 different Feng Shui tenets.

Still not really grasping the importance of environmental quality on life. Who knew this stuff really matters? ;)

Still alive

Been away in Ireland and then unable to face being on the computer long enough to update (a problem I'm having more and more these days). It's like I have a strictly limited amount of time I can be online and then I have to stop. Sometimes it's only an hour or so a day. This means I can read and answer email or post here, not both. It's not my eyes, those have been tested again and again. Maybe I've got more sensitive to electromagnetic fields. I plan to get a smartphone so that it will be easier to just type something quickly while I'm waiting in shops or something. Hell, I might even go on Twitter. :P

I have new shoes. I had worn though the old ones. The new ones are notable in that they are neutral shoes. I used to be a serious overpronator, and even after losing a bunch of weight I needed the support. No longer, it seems. I guess all the walking is paying off. I just have to check with the podiatrist and make sure I don't still need orthotics for something else - but I wore the new neutral shoes for about 8 km today and my feet felt fine after a little initial soreness.

I wonder how much of my recent malaise could be traced to bad footwear? My father always said that if your feet hurt, everything hurts. My feet hadn't been hurting - but my hips, knees, and lower back were distinctly unhappy. We'll see if I can walk tomorrow.

Had a lovely lunch with dave_devereux, whom I hadn't seen in ages. It was great to be able to catch up with him. We decided we need to meet up more regularly. We had surprisingly good Mexican food at a place down by St Nicholas Market; I was gratified that my recommendation didn't automatically destroy the place (as has happened before - I tell someone a place is good, they go there, and they get crap food and service).

Still need to get the business website up and running. There's a skeleton there at present, in need of fleshing out - but I keep running into the online time limit. I expect I'll figure it out sooner or later.

Someone didn't get the memo

Within 10 days of a Devon couple being busted for importing ayahuasca, an article appears in the Guardian's travel section touting ayahuasca retreats in the UK as the "new zany tourist thing", and another one saying that aya is not illegal.

Will you make up your minds already?!

In the UK, It is a "Class A" controlled substance under Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Maximum Penalties:
Possession (Magistrates Court) 6 months/£5,000 fine or both
Possession (Crown Court) 7 years/unlimited fine or both
Supply (Magistrates Court) 6 months/£5,000 fine or both
Supply (Crown Court) life/unlimited fine or both
Obviously these are maximum penalties and each case is different.

Granted, the Theobold article is set in the French Pyrenees, but all the French people I have met have said that aya is most definitely illegal there, and Web sources seem to back this up.

If I owe you an email...

It's quite possible that I've sent it and you haven't got it. We discovered last night that our server has been randomly failing to deliver messages since about 18 Aug. When we called the company, none of the numbers worked and it looked like they'd done a runner in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, the company had been bought out by another one who is now handling it, but they didn't bother to let us know because we only had email and no other services. They said they didn't have the records but this sounded pretty lame; they also said they had only been having problems for the last 24 hours, so who knows what the real story is.

With luck this will be resolved soon - or we'll have to rely on gmail or equivalent.

Picky eaters of the world, unite!

From the most gracious dakiwiboid comes this survey of self-identified adult picky eaters (not due to medical condition or food intolerances)... seems they know a lot about picky eating in kids but not in grownups.


malabar nuts
Of possible interest

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