Watching the swirling action can be hazardous to your health

Don't forget to close the lid. Guess that means the seat goes down too.

Leave it to the British press to remind us of a dirty little secret — like making sure the lid is closed before you flush.

This is stuff I can’t make up.

According to the Mail Online, flushing releases all sorts of bacteria, allowing it to explode into the air, and the lid is there to block it. Or something.

The Mail quotes microbiology professor Mark Wilcox for the info here:

Flushing an open toilet “… increases the risk of viruses like the winter vomiting bug of transmitting to another person … ‘It is very clear from our work that the lid is there for a reason,’ Professor Wilcox told Mail Online … Professor Wilcox and colleagues from Leeds University conducted a study to see how using a toilet lid could affect the spread of disease, specifically in hospitals … they used a sterilised toilet cubicle and created a ‘diarrhoea effect’ in the bowl using stool samples that had been infected with the hospital superbug C. difficile.”

I guess watching everything swirl clockwise down the drain (counterclockwise in Australia) is one of those behaviors that spreads disease.

I didn’t know that.

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Sort of a bear encounter: Hiking trip

As published in HubPages:

That’s when the manager of the lodge announced that there was some recent bear activity on the property, and we should move all our baggage from our porches. Some folks moved right away to take care of their gear, but none of my group bothered. Recent bear activity usually means it could happen. So could being struck by lightning or winning the state lottery … what the manager didn’t say was that there was some bear activity going on right this very moment. Now, that’s a whole ‘nother thing … we finished dinner and went back to our cabin, and all of our stuff was moved inside. And this ranger was still running around, with a dart gun in his hand …

So? Don’t just sit there. Read the story!

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Copenhagen summit recalls scene from old Mexico trip

Some years ago, I visited Mexico — definitely not a rich country — and what struck me was the number of factories on that side of the imaginary line. All of these factories belched vast amounts of smoke and who-knows-what-all into the air, as that country didn’t have all the technology and draconian regulation that we do. And that was long before NAFTA, which opened the border gates for industry.

But we never hear of these Mexican factories causing climate change, or the other industries spotted in just about every duct-tape nation across the globe. They don’t worry about climate change; that’s up to the rich countries. It’s just not politically correct to say otherwise.

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Global warming: Y’all stop breathing; it’ll damage the Earth

Representatives of more than 150 nations — including 100 heads of state — are conspiring with our future in Copenhagen this week.

At issue is this so-called global warming, which may or may not be a real issue, but the evidence itself is completely discredited.

I’ve made my stance known on global warming. Yes, the planet does seem to be getting a bit warmer. I’m basing my assertion on tidal activity I’ve noticed here in Charleston over the past 12 years, plus some of the footage I’ve seen of shrinking and/or fracturing polar ice caps. I’m leaving myself lots of wiggle room here, though, as I could just be full of it.

Now, here’s where things get murky. The planet has its history of fluctuating temperatures, and as recently as 1985 scientists were suggesting we were on a cooling trend. This truth is a big reason why they’re no longer calling it “global warming,” but “climate change,” thereby making the issue even more nebulous.

Because of this history, I’m a lot less sure of the computer models the self-appointed global warming experts use to predict an apocalyptic disaster.

And will someone please tell me, just what is the optimum earth temperature? Are we like the Three Bears here — too hot, too cold, or just right?

While I believe human activity is a factor in these fluctuations, it takes a gigantic leap in logic to say carbon dioxide is a factor. CO2 been one of the byproducts of animal and human life. Humans have been breathing since they first appeared on this planet. Cattle have been burping and farting since they got here. And to call it a dangerous pollutant? Well, I’m not going to go out of my way to suck up a cylinder of pure carbon dioxide, but these global-warming activists are gonna have to try again.

We continue to breathe and pass gas, and we still burn our fossil fuels. But our use of energy is a lot more efficient than it was a generation ago.

And the more they bloviate about climate change, the more carbon dioxide is expelled.

I mentioned flawed evidence here, and a bunch of intercepted emails indidate much of this evidence is completely manufactured. Full of it. Created out of wishful thinking and perhaps a political agenda.

To give an idea how politically charged this whole thing is, consider these points:

– The mainstream media completely ignored stories of manufactured evidence, and only started coverage after being so thoroughly humiliated by the alt-press.

– Sen. Barbara Boxer called for the heads of — not the people who created the bad evidence, but the folks who leaked the emails. Sort of like the way Daniel Ellsberg was treated by the government in the early 1970s after he leaked papers showing how misguided and out of control the Vietnam War was. The party line then, as now, is to shoot the messenger rather than address the message.

But instead of stepping back and rethinking the validity of the evidence, the climate-change doom-shouters continue to further their agenda, giving no trouble to what these bothersome little facts might say.

Meanwhile, the folks in Copenhagen are, like I said, conspiring with our future. Part of this future will certainly include “transferring wealth” and technology by fiat to lesser developed countries, all in the interest of mitigating the damage done by climate change. Which makes no sense whatsoever.

But when you look at this whole process as nothing but a global power grab, then it all starts to make a bunch of sense, and very quickly.

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Gore: Eco-prophet or just another rich guy?

Leave it to Al Gore to strip the global warming question of any credibility it might have.

A story in the New York Times (registration required) outlines what we’ve long suspected of our famous former vice-president and Nobel Prize winner turned crusader — that this carbon-footprint thing is making him a very rich man.

Gore’s investment company, Generation Investment Management, sells carbon offset opportunities and is the largest shareholder of the Chicago Climate Exchange, which stands to make big bucks in the so-called “cap and trade” plan. And that’s not the only financial interest he has in environmental matters.

This is according to New York Times reporter John Broder:

… former Vice President Al Gore thought he had spotted a winner last year when a small California firm sought financing for an energy-saving technology from the venture capital firm where Mr. Gore is a partner … the company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. It came to Mr. Gore’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital providers, looking for $75 million to expand its partnerships with utilities seeking to install millions of so-called smart meters in homes and businesses … Mr. Gore and his partners decided to back the company, and in gratitude Silver Spring retained him and John Doerr, another Kleiner Perkins partner, as unpaid corporate advisers … the deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts. Kleiner Perkins and its partners, including Mr. Gore, could recoup their investment many times over in coming years.

And …

… few people have been as vocal about the urgency of global warming and the need to reinvent the way the world produces and consumes energy. And few have put as much money behind their advocacy as Mr. Gore and are as well positioned to profit from this green transformation, if and when it comes … critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming skeptics, say Mr. Gore is poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire,” profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in … Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, asserted at a hearing this year that Mr. Gore stood to benefit personally from the energy and climate policies he was urging Congress to adopt.

Gore says there’s nothing wrong there; he’s just putting his money where his mouth is. “Do you think there is something wrong with being active in business in this country? I am proud of it. I am proud of it.”

Although this quote sounds like something from Capitalism 101, few of his supporters seem to notice. He’s considered a saint in some circles, and Newsweek recently ran an article calling him an “eco-prophet.”

Uhh, try eco-profit. But then, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re a capitalist, then it’s great. More power to him. But if you’re one of those share-the-wealth types that considers WalMart to be evil and Bill Gates to be the devil incarnate, then it’s time to rethink Gore because there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference.

Global warming causes still a mystery

Just so you know, here’s my take on global warming: I’m somewhere in the middle between the Gore gang and the naysayers. It’s a little hard to see footage of the Antarctic ice cap breaking apart and the Arctic ice cap receding and say it’s all a bunch of crap. It’s a little hard to say it’s bad science when you can see changing tide levels over the past decade here in Charleston. Some of it is cyclical; the planet has a history of warming and cooling trends as long as we’ve been able to collect evidence. Some of the temperature change can be called natural causes, but it’s true man’s poor management of his home turf is also a factor. How much of a factor, though, remains open to debate.

And it’s amusing listening to the naysayers trotting out their own statistics and hypothesis; that cattle farts and belches unload more carbon dioxide than humans ever could, that keeping a pet dumps off more CO2 than keeping a sports-utility vehicle. Like carbon dioxide itself, many of these explanations are just full of gas.

And, blaming our environmental crises on carbon dioxide sounds pretty sketchy at best. There are plenty of real pollutants floating around in our atmosphere to worry about; to pin it all on CO2 is pure hypothesis and nothing’s been proven there. But the Gores of this world are ready to build a whole economy around it, with him making a fortune in the process.

Respin and try again

After several years of evangelizing on the ills of carbon dioxide, Gore recently backtracked a bit. He now admits CO2 may be overrated, that the gas we exhale was not the chief culprit for global warming occurring until 2001.

“Over the years I have been among those who focused most of all on CO2, and I think that’s still justified,” the former vice president told Newsweek . “But a comprehensive plan to solve the climate crisis has to widen the focus to encompass strategies for all” of the greenhouse culprits identified in the NASA study.”

Gore now blames soot and methane for the majority of global warming, leaving the door open for a tax on livestock, a tax on meat, a tax on milk, and on and on until he changes his mind again and blames another culprit so that too can be taxed.

Amazing how he can shift gears like that without being branded an idiot. But many who swallow his Kool-Aid don’t seem to know good science from bad, and certainly don’t care whether the facts bear out the theory or not. And if not, respin it and try again.

As mentioned, Gore sees nothing wrong with making money from an idea. Businessmen do it all the time, and they’re usually condemned for such profiteering – particulary by folks on the left. But these very same people consider sainthood as appropriate for Gore. What’s the deal here? Put Gore in the same camp with the Bill Gateses, the Waltons, and the Buffets and see how you like it.

Lobbyists make a living twisting governmental arms for the sake of a profit, and on a good day they’re called slezebags. But when Gore pushes to implement laws, he’s considered a forward-thinking man of the people.

What kind of hypocrisy is this?

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(I snagged the artwork from Newsbusters.org … I really liked it.)

H1N1: The real deal, or is it just hype?

Every year we get a version of the flu making the rounds. But this one, the H1N1 Virus or “swine flu,” is doing a fine job of scaring everyone.

Folks are taking unusual precautions. Hand sanitizer is flying off store shelves. You can go on YouTube and get crash courses on how to sneeze properly (do it in your sleeve). Bodily contact is out. Flu shots are in. And Barack Obama declared a national emergency last week.

This declaration allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius “to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements” to help squash the flu bug, to limit its spread, or at least to help health care facilities install emergency plans. This also could expand the role of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, although it’s a little early to tell what that would be.

One emergency plan already is drawing a bunch of flak. In New York, health care workers are required to take their flu shots, and many are bucking the trend and making a movement out of it. Some of the workers have been massing in the state capital of Albany, protesting the statewide edict that all health care workers be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, folks are preparing for the virus. That alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a hot commodity. Some churches are foregoing the brotherly hug in favor of a handshake or friendly nod. And people are wondering if there’s enough flu vaccine to go around.

On the official level, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) are saying that whatever resources Obama needs to manage emergency response in the flu epidemic, he should have.

Despite all the buzz and dire predictions, H1N1 is showing itself to be all sizzle and no steak. Since April, “millions” have been infected in the United States, according to Centers For Disease Control (CDC) director Dr. Thomas Frieden. At least 20,000 were hospitalized and more than 1,000 died.

But then, according to the CDC (I got these numbers from the World Almanac), various influenza viruses will hospitalize 200,000 and kill about 36,000 people in the United States every year. That’s every year.

Stacked up against these numbers, this begs the question: How much of H1N1 is hype, and how much is the real deal?

Depends on who you ask. The World Health Organization seems to be playing this on potential, and the flu pandemic of 1918 is held up as the ultimate. And, yeah, the 1918 “bird flu” was a heavy one. It started as something relatively mild, mutated into something deadlier, and ended up killing millions worldwide over two flu seasons.

But in 1918 we didn’t have hand sanitizer. We didn’t have climate control, which is a factor. And we didn’t have all those good drugs we have now. Attempting to make a comparison is a weak reed to lean on.

I’ve never had a flu shot, and I don’t intend to start now. But I am taking my own precautions. Things like washing my hands every so often. Taking Vitamin C. Eating well, getting exercise, all the standard stuff.

I’m not scared, and I’m not buying into the H1N1 hysteria either.

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Mediterranean blob: Is it sea snot?

Eeeeeeew! It’s like all the whales in the world blew their noses in the same area.
National Geographic Magazine reports these gigantic blobs of some mucus-like substance collecting in the Mediterranean Sea.
And this stuff — whatever it is — isn’t just a navigational or fishing hazard, but a health hazard too.
Up to 124 miles (200 kilometers) long, the mucilages appear naturally, usually near Mediterranean coasts in summer. The season’s warm weather makes seawater more stable, which facilitates the bonding of the organic matter that makes up the blobs (Mediterranean map) … now, due to warmer temperatures, the mucilages are forming in winter too—and lasting for months … but the new study found that Mediterranean mucilages harbor bacteria and viruses, including potentially deadly E. coli, Danovaro said. Those pathogens threaten human swimmers as well as fish and other sea creatures, according to the report, published September 16 in the journal PloS One.

You may (or may not) be happy to know it’s not snot. Instead, it’s a mucilage that starts begins as “marine snow,”: clusters of mostly microscopic dead and living organic matter, and some larger dead things. Kind of like the pluff mud that kicks up around Lowcountry estuaries (out-of-towners swear that stuff stinks real bad, but we know better).

Over time, the marine snow picks up other tiny hitchhikers, looking for a meal or safety in numbers, and may grow into a mucilage.

It still sounds like something out of an old Steve McQueen horror flick. Now, if killer tomatoes rise up from the glop, I’m not so sure I want to know about it.

WSJ: The program was the biggest clunker of ’em all

I’m not terribly surprised that the much-ballyhooed Cash For Clunkers program is turning into, well, another clunker.
It looked good for a couple of minutes, or long enough for (now government-run) automakers to see a nifty little spike in business. But that spike is over, folks have their brand new cars and even newer payment books, and auto sales are now flatter than before.
Meanwhile, the people who have just a few hundred bucks to spend on a beater car, well, they’re straight out of luck. These beater cars — the ones the government took off motorists’ hands for some vastly inflated sums — now sit in junkyards, with some sort of “liquid glass” lining the innards of the engines. That stuff’s better than Karo syrup for destroying an engine.
Here’s how the Wall Street Journal put it:
Cash for clunkers had two objectives: help the environment by increasing fuel efficiency, and boost car sales to help Detroit and the economy. It achieved neither. According to Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer, at best “the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day’s gasoline use.” Burton Abrams and George Parsons of the University of Delaware added up the total benefits from reduced gas consumption, environmental improvements and the benefit to car buyers and companies, minus the overall cost of cash for clunkers, and found a net cost of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.
Like nearly all governmental actions, this can be explained away by the great phrase, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” And, yeah, this program was a bonanza for those who wanted to get some new wheels but were shortstopped by the fact their existing cars were not worth very much. A friend of mine got rid of his junker (though it wasn’t that bad — what the hey, it ran) and upgraded through the program. He got a sweet deal on his trade-in through the program, and now he has a car he may or may not be able to afford. What’s more, the trade-in amount is treated as income, therefore taxable.
Really, the only one to derive any real benefits from the Cash For Clunkers program (with the exception of my friend, and that’s debatable) is the auto industry. It’s not hard to figure out. The Big Three automakers are on life support right now, the industry is propped up by governmental funny money, and the program was just a fancy version of corporate welfare.
The other day I checked out the ads for cars in the $1,000-$1,500 range — those which the Web-savvy would call POS cars (if you’re not Web-savvy, DON’T ask). There isn’t much of anything there; these cars seem to have disappeared off the market. So the guy who needs a car but a) can’t afford much better or b) can’t get financing, well, he gets to walk. There is a market for such rolling pieces of wreckage. I’ve driven a few of them, and one of the byproducts of driving one is that I learned to be halfway good with a wrench. And found lots of cool uses for duct tape and WD-40.
The thought of destroying perfectly good assets to create wealth may make sense to a bureaucrat, but to living breathing working people out there in the real world, it’s total nonsense.
The car manufacturers are finding Clunkers to be nothing more than a bump in the free fall. In September, the first post-Cash for Clunkers sales period, saw Chrysler’s new-car sales figures dive by 42 percent off September 2008. In that same period, GM’s numbers went into a redline dive of 45 percent. Yet Ford’s numbers only slipped five percent in that time; you tell me.
From the WSJ again:
In the category of all-time dumb ideas, cash for clunkers rivals the New Deal brainstorm to slaughter pigs to raise pork prices. The people who really belong in the junk yard are the wizards in Washington who peddled this economic malarkey.
Now there’s scuttlebutt there may be Cash For Clunkers programs for refrigerators and home appliances coming down the pike. What’s next? VCR’s? Stereos? Computers, perhaps?
Anyone know a quick way of getting that liquid glass gunk out of an engine?
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You tell me: Can you see any Cash For Clunkers benefits that I don’t see? Did you upgrade your wheels through this program? Got any other clunkers you wish to get rid of in future programs? Use the comments section for input.

Creating a recession to reduce greenhouse gases? Say what?

This sounds like something that would freak out even the most diehard conspiracy theorists, tin-hattery taken to the nth degree.
But, according to an article in the Telegraph (yeah, the British press), the way to reduce greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, the culprit-du-jour of global warming), is to trash the economy.
… a new report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said these targets are inadequate to keep global warming below two degrees C above pre-industrial levels. The report says the only way to avoid going beyond the dangerous tipping point is to double the target to 70 per cent by 2020 … this would mean reducing the size of the economy through a “planned recession” … Kevin Anderson, director of the research body, said the building of new airports, petrol cars and dirty coal-fired power stations will have to be halted in the UK until new technology provides an alternative to burning fossil fuels. “To meet [Government] targets of not exceeding two degrees C, there would have to be a moratorium on airport expansion, stringent measures on the type of vehicle being used and a rapid transition to low carbon technology,” he said …
Do I believe this? No, though I can’t say anything surprises me any more. And, while our own efforts to “fix” environmental problems through legislation do aggravate our financial woes, it takes some gigantic leaps in logic to say environmentalists have an interest in creating a recession or have the power to do so.
Although I consider climate change to be a real issue (though not nearly as big as Al Gore says), a big part of environmental reform is in “selling” it … and creating a recession is not the way to sell anything.
You tell me: Is there validity in what Kevin Anderson says, or is there something in the air over there? Are a clean environment and a sound economy mutually exclusive terms? Use the comments section for input.

What’s in that coffee? Wired unlocks some mysteries

When it comes to coffee, I’m what you’d call a maintenance drinker. That first cup in the morning starts my heart and gets my blood flowing; I begin to wake up with the second cup. By the third or fourth cup, I’m flat-out brilliant.
The stuff’s magic. Once the caffeine hits my cerebral cortex, ideas start flowing. The world starts to look all right, and I’m ready to go out in it.
I like those really dark brews — Cafe Bustelo espresso blend is my usual morning feeding. It’s cheap, half the label is in Spanish, but it meets the criteria I’m after. I’ll also go for some Hardy Passion, or something like that. The best coffee is the kind that tastes like someone left a cigar butt in the cup. The kind that looks like someone just changed his oil. Taken straight, of course.
Occasionally I’ll go for some of the fancy stuff. A friend turned me on to the iced cafe mocha you get at McDonalds. Who’d think Mickey D’s could do that? They couldn’t even make a drinkable cup of coffee … but their iced cafe mocha truly rocks butt. Recently, it ranked higher than the stuff at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and I believe it. It’s more like a dessert than anything else, and I’ll only have one when this friend and I go out for some.
Voltaire, the French thinker and gadfly, was a real two-fisted coffee drinker. Consumed 50 cups a day, he claimed. It’s anyone’s guess how many bathroom stops he made every day, though. Someone once warned him coffee was a slow poison, which gave him occasion to toss off that great line every coffee drinker should know:
“It must be … I’ve been drinking it for 50 years, and I’m not dead yet.”
Wired (how appropriate!) online magazine, in an attempt to unlock the mystery of coffee, ran a piece outlining what you’d find in your morning brew. It’s probably not like reading the ingredients on, say, hot dogs or Slim Jims, but it’s revealing nonetheless:
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Caffeine
This is why the world produces more than 16 billion pounds of coffee beans per year. It’s actually an alkaloid plant toxin (like nicotine and cocaine), a bug killer that stimulates us by blocking neuroreceptors for the sleep chemical adenosine. The result: you, awake.
Water
Hot H2O is a super solvent, leaching flavors and oils out of the coffee bean. A good cup of joe is 98.75 percent water and 1.25 percent soluble plant matter. Caffeine is a diuretic, so coffee newbies pee out the water quickly; java junkies build up resistance.
2-Ethylphenol
Creates a tarlike, medicinal odor in your morning wake-up. It’s also a component of cockroach alarm pheromones, chemical signals that warn the colony of danger.
Quinic acid
Gives coffee its slightly sour flavor. On the plus side, it’s one of the starter chemicals in the formulation of Tamiflu.
3,5 Dicaffeoylquinic acid
When scientists pretreat neurons with this acid in the lab, the cells are significantly (though not completely) protected from free-radical damage. Yup: Coffee is a good source of antioxidants.
Dimethyl disulfide
A product of roasting the green coffee bean, this compound is just at the threshold of detectability in brewed java. Good thing, too, as it’s one of the compounds that gives human feces its odor.
Acetylmethylcarbinol
That rich, buttery taste in your daily jolt comes in part from this flammable yellow liquid, which helps give real butter its flavor and is a component of artificial flavoring in microwave popcorn.
Putrescine
Ever wonder what makes spoiled meat so poisonous? Here you go. Ptomaines like putrescine are produced when E. coli bacteria in the meat break down amino acids. Naturally present in coffee beans, it smells, as you might guess from the name, like Satan’s outhouse.
Trigonelline
Chemically, it’s a molecule of niacin with a methyl group attached. It breaks down into pyridines, which give coffee its sweet, earthy taste and also prevent the tooth-eating bacterium Streptococcus mutans from attaching to your teeth. Coffee fights the Cavity Creeps.
Niacin
Trigonelline is unstable above 160 degrees F; the methyl group detaches, unleashing the niacin—vitamin B3—into your cup. Two or three espressos can provide half your recommended daily allowance.
*****
Interesting! I was aware of the antioxidant properties of coffee (tea also has this), but I didn’t realize I was taking all these things that make the bathroom smell funny. It’s probably a good thing I live alone.
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You tell me: Are you surprised by these findings? Does that morning blast create magic for you? Are you worried about smelly bathrooms, or does your need for caffeine make this a non-issue? Use the comments section for feedback.