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The “Wet House” Concept: Bunks For Drunks? Or Harm Reduction?

[ 5 Comments ]Posted on February 18, 2011 by admin in Health & Wellness

Friday, February 18th, 2011

How would you feel about your tax dollars paying for housing for drunks where they’re allowed to drink all they want?

Who knows. Maybe a “wet house” is
preferable to the Romanian “Please don’t
run over the drunks”

There was a time in my life when – if you told me there was a place I could go live for free and drink my brains out as I saw fit – I would have camped out overnight so I could be the first first in line on registration day. I spent much of my adult life proving how well I could maintain an orderly existence while ingesting mind-boggling amounts of intoxicants selected from the veritable smorgasbord of both socially acceptable and not-so-socially acceptable recreational drugs available to the modern party monster, and I guess I was pretty good at it for a while. My views have changed a bit though, after slowly calling it quits over the years, finally ending my personal war on drugs a few years ago when I surrendered to the most resilient of my challengers, alcohol. Which is why I have to say I have some mixed feelings about the idea of something I’d never heard of before today: a concept called a “wet house”. The idea is that trying to rehabilitate “chronic inebriates” (i.e.: hopeless drunks) is such a financial burden on society that giving them a place to live for free and just letting them drink their brains out is a better solution. They’re trying it in St. Paul, Minnesota, and San Francisco was considering the idea last fall, after seeing the results of a wet house program in Seattle that started in 2006. As you can imagine, the responses to the idea tend to be rather polarized, ranging from those who deride the program as “bunks for drunks” to those who argue in favor of the idea based on the concept of harm reduction. I’m still trying to process the realities of this scenario; although my gut reaction is that it’s an awful, awful idea, reason urges me to consider the possibility that if managed well, it may actually present an “end of the line” alcoholic with one last chance to get sober, when it’s obvious that the existing system has failed to help them.

My Amazing New Seafood Weight Loss Diet

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 30, 2011 by admin in Health & Wellness

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I expect to lose at least ten pounds while I figure out what’s safe to eat. Like they say: Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. TEACH him how to fish, and he’ll decimate the edible fish populations by 2050.

Sorry Charlie. You’re not on the menu any more.

I think I discovered a great new weight loss program today. It’s based largely on carefully selected seafood. Perhaps you’re thinking “Duh, we all know the benefits of seafood as a healthier, leaner protein source, rich in Omega 3″, right? Well this is a fairly new approach. It’s based on selecting seafoods that aren’t tainted with Mercury or other toxins, and that aren’t in danger of extinction from overfishing. Today I was making a simple Niçoise salad, something I enjoy once in a while. I only occasionally use a fresh piece of tuna, so today, as I opened the can of moderately high-quality tuna, I realized I hadn’t checked on the imperiled state of tuna populations in a while, and thought “Wow. What if this were the last can of tuna I ever opened?” So I did a little research. And after about fifteen minutes, I realized that if I commit to a seafood-only diet, and wade through all the conflicting and poorly-coordinated information available about overfishing and toxins, I should lose about ten pounds before I have it all sorted out. I’m not going to offer any advice here, beyond suggesting you do some research of your own before you order that Striped Bass special the next time you go out to dinner. But I’ve rounded up some good start points if you want to learn about the health risks or sustainability of your favorite fish. One lengthy but fairly easy to review summary is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2010 Culinary Chart of Alternatives. It lists what to avoid, alternatives for each item, and has little red asterisks to highlight the ones that are the ocean equivalent of eating paint chips for dinner. This chart assembled by the Environmental Defense Fund breaks down how often you might want to eat some PCB’s and/or Mercury, based on whether you’re a woman, a man, an older kid, or a younger kid. Like we said, if the waiter recommends the Wild Striped Bass, call the cops. He’s trying to kill you. There’s also a wealth of information about seafood on the NOAA Fisheries Service FishWatch site, but personally, I’d take any US government agency’s “safe to eat” advice with a grain of salt, especially regarding the impact of BP’s use of Corexit on gulf seafood. In spite of their claims of rigorous testing, they’re talking about less than 2,000 samples being tested for a rather limited number of contaminants, and simply can’t speak with authority on long term impact, it hasn’t been long enough! If you’re interested in the process they use, which includes sensory testing, i.e. fish-sniffing, check out A Step-By-Step Journey: How Gulf Seafood is Deemed “Safe”. I wonder what a tofu Niçoise would be like?

I Need A New Drug

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 22, 2011 by admin in Health & Wellness

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Or at least the US government thinks I do.

I knew it. DNA is made of drugs.

Would it trouble you – as it troubled me – to learn that there are plans afoot to significantly restructure the National Institute of Health to enable the pursuit of drug discovery because of concerns that the drug companies aren’t creating enough new drugs? Would you feel better if you knew the plans were being spearheaded by Francis Collins, former director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, which he managed to keep ahead of schedule and under budget while identifying the sequence of all three billion base pairs of the human genome in 2003? If the fact that such a disciplined scientist is at the helm makes you feel better about things, how would you feel if you were to discover that he is also an evangelical Christian who founded the BioLogos Foundation, and the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief? Personally, the only thing that troubled me as I read about the plans to create this new research agency within the NIH was the idea that according to this NYT piece, one of the main motivations for establishing the agency is the fact that in spite of spending billions annually on research, the pharmaceutical industry is cutting research budgets because profits are down. Which should not be surprising, when you ponder the fact that the industry – in spite of historically claiming that drug prices are high to support research – actually spends twice as much on advertising as it does on R & D. Which may also explain why there were only two major mental health drug discoveries in the past century – lithium for the treatment of bipolar disorder in 1949 and Thorazine for the treatment of psychosis in 1950 – and why they still don’t even understand how Lithium works. Which of course hasn’t stopped them from deriving other drugs from it and rushing them to market. In my view, the only concern is do we need more drugs? It will be interesting to see what kind of controversy springs up around these plans; they were quietly announced in December, but they plan to have the new center at the NIH operational by October 2011. What do you think – do we need more drugs, and do we need a government agency developing them?

Better New Year’s Hangovers Through Science

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 31, 2010 by admin in Health & Wellness

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Tired of all those mamby-pamby guides telling you that drinking water and taking aspirin will prevent your hangover? Get real, with our no-holds-barred, drink your brains out guide. Prepared by a retired top professional in the field.

Go ahead and drink yourself silly.
Just don’t be a baby about it.

If you don’t feel like drinking a lot tonight, we already suggested some excellent New Year’s Eve movies. But if you DO decide to drink a lot tonight, do me a couple favors: First, don’t drive. And second, don’t complain about your hangover tomorrow. Drinking to excess is all fine and dandy, but man up and do it right, or don’t do it at all. Although I kicked the habit a few years ago, I actually have considerable experience in this arena, so you can trust my expertise. I estimate that in the more productive period of my illustrious drinking career, I easily consumed over a thousand gallons of vodka. Which is my first tip. If you’re going to funnel poisons into your body for an evening, be scientific about it. Anything other than straight vodka may be tasty and enable a lot of highbrow banter about palates, noses, and finishes, but is frought with peril. Wine, beer, and whiskey are variously chock full of fungus and mold, cogeners, and fusel oils. It should be telling enough that the smoky and fiery character of bourbons are derived from something that in German means bad liquor. Some of us have understood this vodka trick for years, and now science has finally validated the idea.Speaking of science, I bet you didn’t know that there’s an enzyme in our systems specifically for breaking down alcohol. Well there is. So while you’re drinking the most-distilled vodka you can get your hands on to ensure that it’s almost entirely simple ethanol, EAT SOMETHING for chrissake. Russians have understood this for ages; they do a little shot, have a little Zakuski, do a little shot, have a little Zakuski… wipe, rinse hands, repeat. Until you’re grabbing everyone within reach (your reach will dwindle as you slump under the table) by the neck to kiss them and tell them how much you love them, goddammit. Oh, and have a glass of water now and then. This isn’t rocket science; it’s just science. And one trick I’ve never heard or read about but I swear worked flawlessly for me for years: eat a couple of eggs right before bed. And by “right before bed” I mean as you’re passing out on the way to it. And aspirin? Whatever. If you’re drunk enough that you’re already anticipating a brain-splitting hangover, your body is so busy detoxing already I doubt it’s going to notice you slipped it a couple puny aspirin. No, the end of a hard night of drinking is hardly the time to start taking medicine, unless of course by “medicine” you mean copious amounts of recreational drugs. In which case, have at it. I never understood the idea of ingesting intoxicants and then not ingesting ALL THE INTOXICANTS AVAILABLE. I mean, the objective here is intoxication, right? No sense mucking things up by trying to figure out ways to not be intoxicated. I mean, if you don’t want to be intoxicated, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU DRINKING? And that leads to our last little tip, which is dealing with the hangover if you fail to prevent it. Not to be insensitive or anything, but this part is pretty simple too. Either get up, have a bloody mary, and go on about your day, preferably engaging in difficult manual labor, or lay in bed swearing you’ll “NEVER DRINK AGAIN OH DEAR GOD I SWEAR IF YOU JUST MAKE THIS STOP“. If you choose the latter, take a cue from the movie Trainspotting, in which the character Renton shares a list that very nearly matches exactly what you’ll need to feel better: “one mattress; tomato soup, ten tins of; mushroom soup, eight tins of, for consumption cold; ice cream, vanilla, one large tub of; Magnesia, Milk of, one bottle; paracetamol; mouth wash; vitamins; mineral water; Lucozade; pornography; one bucket for urine, one for feces, and one for vomitus; one television; and one bottle of Valium“. Hopefully you won’t actually need the first and second buckets, but otherwise this list is just about right for a hangover. In reality, I in fact hope you’re smart and responsible enough to not get blithering drunk tonight, but if you must, do it with dignity, and tomorrow, accept the fact that bacchanalian revelry is in fact a pretty freakin’ stupid way to start the year. Whatever you do tonight, just don’t hurt anybody else. And truly, I wish you and yours and all of us on Earth a Happy New Year.

5 Things I’d Do Before I’d Get A Flu Shot

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on December 10, 2010 by admin in Health & Wellness

Friday, December 10th, 2010

People sometimes doubt my rather strong feelings about why I won’t get a flu shot. Here are some examples to help make my point.

No offense to all the well-intentioned police and medical professionals of the world, but I learned a simple rule at a fairly young age: If there’s a cop or a doctor around, something bad is going on. And in the case of doctors, I always like to point out that their financial well-being relies on a continuous supply of sick people. Which is why I tend to shun them; although I’m happy to see a professional if a limb is partially severed or a bone is protruding through my skin, I tend to be a little suspicious about all the precautionary measures they suggest. Especially after having browsed the trade mags that some doctors are foolish enough to leave lying about the waiting room. You know, the ones that have big ads with headings like “Increase Your Billing By 35%!” Which all ties in with why I refuse to get a flu shot each year. I mean, it’s also rather disturbing to think about injecting something into my bloodstream that contains stuff like chick embryo fluid, cells from monkeys, sheep blood cells, mouse serum, material from guinea-pig embryos, or cells from human aborted fetal tissue. And in the case of flu vaccines, high levels of aluminum, mercury, and formaldehyde (full list here). I’ll take my chances on the flu, thank you very much; with the worst case I ever had, my fever hovered around 104°F for several days, and I actually kind of enjoyed the hallucinations. Plus, being laid up like that also seems to be the only way I ever manage to get a few days off in a row, and catch up on some bad TV. So in any case, I’m not here to tell you not to get a flu shot, have at it. Maybe you’ll luck out and your offspring will have the agility and curiosity of monkeys, the craftiness of mice, the docile nature of sheep (always handy in the workplace) and be as cute as hamsters. By the same token, I’ve probably made it clear by now that there’s not much hope of getting me to get one. If not, below are several things I’d gladly do before getting a flu shot myself. Read the rest of this entry »

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