Saturday, April 28, 2012

Amanda Beard in Pictures

Bugatti 16 C Galibier teaser video

Photography is pretty cool in this video...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Brand new Prometheus Featurette [Directed by Ridfley Scott, and Coming Soon!]

What's the difference between butter and margarine - and which one is (really) good for us

I'll make this very simple, and show you how butter is made, followed by how that plasticky other yellow stuff is made (getting the hint yet?).

This from Tom Naughton:

To make butter...  
Milk a cow. 
Skim off the cream.
Add salt. 
Churn the cream until it’s thick and chunky and tastes awesome.

 And as Naughton says, "That’s a food Mother Nature would indeed recognize." Indeed. And margarine, how is that made? Well, slightly differently.

 Farmers grow seeds.  
The seeds are harvested. 
The seeds are crushed to extract some of the oil. 
The rest of the oil is extracted by mixing the seeds with hexane, a chemical solvent. 
The hexane is (supposedly) all removed. 
The oil is pumped full of hydrogen gas and nickel powder. (Even the margarine makers know hydrogenated oils are a tough sell these days, so they may skip this step. I don’t know what, if anything, has replaced it.) 
The remaining oil is subjected to heat and high-pressure CO2 gas. 
 The oil is mixed with sodium hydroxide and passed through a centrifuge. 
The oil is mixed with water and passed through another centrifuge. 
At this point, the margarine is a gray, speckled, oily mass that doesn’t smell so good. 
So … The oil is mixed with hydrated aluminum silicate that binds to and filters out the unwanted pigments. 
The mix is heated again and the oil is extracted. 
The oil is passed through a steam distillation chamber to remove unwanted odors. 
Yellow food coloring and artificial flavors are added.

Obviously the folks who want to sell margarine want you to think margarine is healthy and butter is bad, which is why they peddle half truths. Don't believe 'em, and if you insist on consuming margarine, make sure it doesn't involve hydrogenation.  If you think this isn't important, think again.  This stuff that we are eating, that we don't think about, is lethal.  It's literally killing us.  Want a graph or some stats to prove it (because maybe you think the process of making margarine doesn't sound harmful or too unnatural...):

(The population was growing, so the per-person consumption dropped even more dramatically.)
Deaths due to Coronary Heart Disease, 1920-1960
Deaths due to Coronary Heart Disease, 1920-1960

This is triathlon!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ryk Neethling drug allegation - the dust has settled incredibly quickly hasn't it?

If you take a cursory glance through South Africa's newspapers, you get the feeling that our news media has simply accepted Ryk's denial of what his ex-girlfriend Amanda Beard calls "trying to figure out how to live in a bad relationship."

You would think the South African media, and the public, would take seriously the allegation that Ryk might not be the perfect partner, since the image most South Africans have of Neethling in the media, and via his persona, is that he is an ideal man, and perhaps an ideal partner to the fairer sex.

But almost every headline in South Africa seems to second-guess Beard's assertions and support Ryk; each one trumpets the same carbon copy: Ryk Denies Drug Claims. None have raised an eyebrow or even pondered the 'what ifs'. Instead, if anything, The Star goes even further to ingratiate themselves with our hero, providing a caption to the Ryk picture with the words, "Drug Free", as though this were already an established fact. Says who?

It is also interesting to compare the mildness of the fuss (this story instantly fizzled) of one of South Africa's most famous athletes to the brouhaha surrounding Hansie Cronje - for something as exotic, but boring, as matchfixing in India. Here you have a world champion gold medalist in America, one of the most downloaded sportswomen in history, making incredible claims about our homeboy, and they're not worth thinking about? That's not news?

In a recent article published in the South African edition of HEAT magazine, Roland Schoeman, a far more accomplished swimmer than Neethling (twice world champion in two individual events, and in a head to head contest in the 2004 Olympics, Schoeman won a silver, Neethling came 4th, the closest Neethling could ever come to an individual Olympic medal) is less than complimentary about South Africa's golden boy.  If anyone should know Ryk behind the scenes it is Roland, who spent 8 years swimming with Ryk at the same academy in Tuscon Arizona.  Schoeman doesn't mince words, comparing Ryk's (fake) persona to Tiger Woods and using words such as "manipulative, calculating, self serving, egotistical" and "just unsavory".  Schoeman contends that "he has led on the entire country."  Others swimmers have been more cautious, making similar comments but opting to remain anonymous.
The Heat article goes on to say that Ryk had "no comment" to respond to the article, and quotes a few friends close to Ryk saying "this doesn't sound like Ryk..." and making similar broad, insubstantial, and otherwise nonsense statements.

Let's not forget the longevity of the Hansie saga, something many of us can still remember clearly (and painfully). And against the context of the hysteria surrounding athletes such as Lance Armstrong, and the sexual addiction plaguing Tiger Woods, the resignation of our media doesn't match. Andre Agassi recently admitted to doing drugs (crystal meth) in his biography, it was a big deal, and it should be. These are charismatic champions that we admire, but it turns out, some of those fairy tales are very far from perfect at times. So why not say so? Even if Ryk did do drugs, is it such a big deal?

Beard wrote in her auto biography In the Water They Can’t See You Cry that she would only get along with Neethling when she was using drugs. This, upon closer scrutiny, is a very odd thing to say. In other words, for her, she wasn't taking the drugs just for the enjoyment, but to attempt to enable a dysfunctional relationship. What was dysfunctional about it? And further, what was Ryk's motive in using drugs with Amanda Beard (if indeed he did)?  And did they have any problems trying to withdraw from drugs?

She says: As a freshman, she caught the eye of South African swimming star Ryk Neethling, a senior on the Wildcats' team. They began a volatile relationship that lasted through the 2004 Athens Olympics. Beard writes how the couple had "loud screaming mean fights" and she started cutting herself to escape the pain.

This speaks of some serious problems in a relationship, beyond the ordinary. Don't South Africans care what they are? Cutting oneself to escape the pain sounds like something very messed up that Beard couldn't put her finger on. "I wasn't trying to kill myself," she writes. "I was trying to figure out how to live in a bad relationship." That statement also suggests that something was going on in the relationship that she couldn't figure out. Possibly a deception, possibly her own insecurities, but perhaps not.

According to CBSnews: Beard's star eventually eclipsed Neethling's, something she said he couldn't accept even though she was supporting him financially after turning pro. She describes a two-month visit to his family in South Africa that included use of Ecstasy, cocaine and acid.

Note that there are a few allegations in this. That apparently Ryk was using drugs while at home or close to home. Were either of his sister's involved? Also, if it's true, it's not because Beard was failing or struggling in her swimming, in fact the opposite was true. So if Beard's swimming career was a success, what was the motive for Ryk to take drugs (again, if he did).

Another point is that Beard doesn't suggest that they simply used one drug, but several. The drugs she names are the sort of recreational (party) drugs that frequent visitors to Ibitha might use, not so? CBS goes on to say that Beard never succeeded in getting the attention and approval she so desperately sought from Neethling, who eventually moved back home. Again, why was it so difficult, doing so well at swimming, to love and appreciate this beautiful, and talented swimmer?

And Ryk isn't the only boyfriend she singles out (it's not a conspiracy) -  her relationship with Nascar driver Carl Edwards was also not quite right, though for slightly different reasons. Read about that here:

Not long after their relationship ended, Beard began dating NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who comes off as controlling and jealous in the book. She writes that while their sex life sizzled, Edwards tried to control her, ordering her not to talk to other drivers at his races. She writes that their yearlong relationship was mostly one-way, with Beard following him from track to track and Edwards paying little attention to anything in her life. 

"I don't know if I'll hear from them," Beard said about her famous exes.
Point is, it doesn't sound made up, does it? Have a watch and decide for yourself if Beard seems
Ryk's response to all this wasn't, "No, I never used drugs." But this: “It should be noted that international athletes are subjected to frequent random drug tests in and out of competition. I passed every one of the close-on 200 blood and urine tests I did during my career.” It reminds me of Bill Clinton, who famously said: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." [Pause]. "Miss Lewinsky." Except that he did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kunstler: when anything goes, nothing matters

"No one in the American media is paying attention to the unfolding tragedy of Japan - and by this I refer not only to the unfinished Fukushima saga, but the parallel story of Japan closing down virtually its entire nuclear power industry necessitating gigantic additional imports of oil and gas to generate electric power - all of which points to the likelihood that Japan will become the first advanced industrial nation to bid sayonara to modernity and return to a neo-medieval socio-economic model of daily life."

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Sweet Disease - you COULD have read it here first ;-)

NOTE: People are crediting Gary Taubes and Prof Tim Noakes as nutritional visionaries, who have just recently become enlightened on what constutes good nutrition.  But I think the common sense wisdom surrounding how we should eat has been out there for a while.  Both authors have demonstrated (putting themselves on diets), however, that the key to reducing weight (and increasing health) lies in doing one simple thing:cutting out sugar

I find it ironic, and kinda funny, that in mid-September 2010 I tried my damndest to flog the attached piece of writing. I sent it to a bunch of magazine's, including Men's Health. They turned their noses up at the time, if they even bothered to look at the writing in the first place. The 1500 word article attached below centres around the toxic nature of our ordinary addictions, specifically for (you guessed it) - sugar. 

Since then, of course there has been a lot of Hoopla about protein, saying we should shift away from carbohydrate (IOW sugars) towards protein. Many people mistakenly think that means increasing their intake of meats. And I was one of many who believed that animal fats and excessive egg eating is also bad for us.  No, what we need to be doing is decreasing our intake of refined foods, including sweets, cereals, pastas and breads, and increasing their intake of produce, especially vegetables (but excluding potatoes and carrots). The article below, written in 2010 says exactly that. But even well before this, in 2006, I was criticising the abundance of sugar and meat in our diet if you listen to this podcast.  

A final point worth mentioning is Noakes' warning about the addictive nature of sugar (and modern junk food diets in general).  Folk seem to think this an extreme statement.  When you think about it, what is extreme is the toxic nature of the food we're conditioned to eating.  The average supermarket is stocked with approximately 90% of foods that have a deleterious effect on our bodies, but only small pockets in aisle sections are dedicated to fresh meats, salads and produce.  It's no wonder we eat so badly when even the shops are filled with trashy nutrition.  And now, to the article which - apparently - wasn't good enough for Men's Health in 2010:

In this shocking exposé, Nick van der Leek reveals to what extent our addictions to sugar [you know, chocolates and sodas] are damaging the health of this generation.

Addiction is our way of life." - Social psychologist Stanton Peele

The formula is simple. If you eat a high-carb diet, that means mostly sugars and starches [including breads, pastas and pizzas], it drives down your cholesterol to an unhealthy level. Low blood cholesterol is associated with aggression and antisocial behaviour. Or moodiness and irritability. It’s not a happy or healthy way to live.

Maintain these unhealthy habits for long enough and the body responds by developing a resistance to this overloading – or overdosing – of sugar. And gradually this resistance becomes insulin resistance. Diabetes. Excess fat in the blood increasingly prevents the body from absorbing sugar. When this condition continues for long enough, you get Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic, often lifelong affliction. In simple terms, it’s like an allergic reaction to sugar.

Sugar is more dangerous than fat

Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University reported in 1994 that old people with low cholesterol [caused by high sugar intake] died twice as often from a heart attack as did old people with high cholesterol.

We may recognise the impacts to our health on an intellectual level, yet physiologically we’re less assertive when we crave a chocolate fix, and apparently, less clear minded. This is because modern society is addicted to the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, and more particularly to the substances in these foods: sugars, MSG salts, caffeine, even hot sauces. The swathes of obese people, and worse, obese children, weighing down flotillas of lounge sofas are evidence of a society that is now reaching chronic food addiction levels. The implications are that the next generation will be the first to live shorter lives than our generation. Blame widespread obesity for this.

An obesity cure does not come easily, anyone who has watched The Biggest Loser knows what is involved. The problem is our society still considers fast food more convenient [in others words good] than detrimental, a health symptom that is subtle because it happens gradually. It’s also not easy to kick the habit, of trying to change the culture surrounding how and what we eat. For one there is a barrage of advertisements that keep us enslaved. How often do we see advertisements for fresh vegetables?

The Sugar Drug

Addiction at its most simplest is a particular relationship between a user and a substance. The substance creates a particular energy, electrical or nerve response. Sugar may not seem like a drug until you examine your own lifestyle, and notice to what extent it is part and parcel of how we attempt to boost energy levels or lift our moods.

Kathleen DesMaisons measured the physiological responses of the human body to sugars in 1998. DesMaisons discovered that dependence on sugar followed the same paths predicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for other drugs of abuse. The inference is simple, but profound. A substance as simple as 'sugar' can lead to addiction, dependence and mood and behaviour disorders. In addition, drinking a cola or eating chocolate immediately degrades natural immunity. Putting a chocolate into your mouth is literally like mixing drops of water into the petrol tank of your car – a recipe for disaster.

Given that alcohol is a complex sugar, the idea of sugar as an addictive substance doesn’t seem so farfetched. But don’t be fooled. Our habitual consumptions are just as pernicious as alcoholism, and both manifest in the familiar ‘bloated’ appearance. The genteel cup of tea in Victorian England is just as much a 'fix' as an officeworker unwrapping a chocolate bar, filling up a cup of coffee or a raver downing ecstacy in a busy nightclub.


Princeton's Bart Hoebel has found that sugar stimulated cravings and activated pathways in the brain that evolved to respond to natural rewards, meaning habitual sugar intake could become a gateway drug for other drugs.
Sugar has recently been linked to the stimulation of opioids and dopamine in the brain. Neural adaptations associated with drug taking include the same changes associated with high sugar use. Children who consume a lot of sugar are vulnerable to hyperactivity disorders; and worse, total cholesterol may be a risk factor for aggression or a risk marker for other biologic variables that predispose to aggression.

McDonald's and Coca Cola can be considered to be two well known, well recognised salt and sugar resources for our popular culture. McDonald's serves 47 million customers daily, and is the world's largest fast food restaurant franchise. It is also the only restaurant brand in Interbrand’s top 20.

Coca Cola is the world's largest producer of soft drinks and considered to be the world's number one brand by Interbrand. According to Interbrand McDonald's is 7 brand positions below Coke, at 8th position in the world. Indeed, McDonald's offers sweet Coca Cola to compliment their salty Happy Meals, along with a toy. The Happy Meal is specifically tailored to children. These food and beverage brands have come up with the following pitches to the public over the last 20 years:

Make every day a McDonald's day
Enjoy more
It's what I eat and what I do
Coke...after Coke...after Coke
Coke adds life
Can't Beat the Real Thing
Taste it all
I'm lovin' it.
What we're made of

"People don't go to sleep thin and wake up obese. The understanding and comprehension of what hamburgers and French fries do has been with us for a long, long time." - McDonald's lawyer Brad Lerman.

"People need to understand that obesity is not about a beverage or a candy bar or a restaurant meal or a PlayStation game or about working longer hours. It's a systematic lifestyle issue that we must address individually and collectively as a society." - Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent

The Sweet Disease

The number one leading cause of death in the world is due to coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is caused by the intake of high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood (fast foods are highly associated with these fats), high blood pressure (linked to obesity and poor diet) and high sugar intake (sodas are amongst the highest sugar containing beverages). High-calorie, low-nutrition franchised fast foods have well-known links to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Some of the highest sugar containing beverages are the Starbucks Frappucino (550 calories), Coke (155 calories) and Red Bull (110 calories). McDonald's de lux breakfast has 1140 calories (49g of fat), a Big Mac has 540 calories, while fries have even more. A large portion of McDonald's french fries have 610 calories and 29 grams of fat. The amounts of sodium (salt) in ordinary McDonald's meals is also higher than average.

6 of the top 10 selling drugs in the world treat the symptoms of excessive junk food eating:

- high cholesterol [LIPITOR – world’s best selling drug, ZOCOR world’s 10th best selling drug]
- heart disease [PLAVIX – 2nd best selling drug in the world]
- heartburn [NEXIUM, PREVACID]
- high blood pressure [NORVASC]


The tide does seem to be turning. Recognition has kicked in that unless we change our eating patterns, this generation won’t live nearly as long as their parents. Jamie Oliver is one of a number of celebrities spearheading a much needed Food Revolution. The premise is simple, but may not be easy at first. When one recognises the health costs, health risks and the sheer lousiness associated with everyday heaviness, this is a cause worthy of pursuit.

So here’s the easy to remember formula to living better, longer and healthier. In terms of diet:

Brown is Bad: if all your food is golden brown it’s not healthy.
Green is Good: add color to your diet, especially greens.
Cut the Confectionary: cut out sugars, particularly the raw stuff in colas, fruit juices and confectionary.
Go Veg: replace these unhealthy sugars with fruit and vegetables [but don’t drink pure juices].
Salad Staple: eat less meats and more salads. Try to make salad a staple food; have at least one salad serving a week.
Kickstart the Kitchen: prepare your own food rather than buying processed. It’s not only healthier, it’s often cheaper.
Rarely use Raw: use as little as possible of the raw sugar you sprinkle by the spoonful on cereals and in coffee or tea

And in terms of lifestyle, that old staple of health – exercise. Exercise is effective when it balances the calorie equation in terms of energy consumed versus energy converted into action. Remember, anything you eat that isn’t used by the body is stored, and becomes fat. Sugar is extremely energy rich, and one of the quickest and easiest ways to pack on the pounds. That piece of information alone ought to have you running for the hills. When a cupcake next makes its way to your plate, make sure you do.

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