Omega-3 and white fish – are we being conned?

Yes, I believe we are.

We all know how oily fish are touted as great sources of omega-3 which, as it’s peddled as a sovereign remedy for so many ills, is in grave danger of assuming the mantle of snake oil, but what’s the story with white fish?

I ask because I have several packs of white fish in my freezer, from a variety of sources, all claiming to be “A natural source of omega-3” (and by the way, TV advertising retards, it is NOT pronounced ohmeega).

And how do you think we managed to survive before Continue reading

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A close shave…

I’ve mentioned before that we seem to be producing a nation of pussies – and it’s getting worse.

There’s a current TV ad featuring a young guy who hasn’t shaved for the entire weekend, so he has stubble (and let’s ignore the fact that the weekend is when most young people socialise, and the lazy bugger  should have shaved!).

The ad points out that shaving 3 days worth of stubble, before Continue reading

The Sky saga (a.k.a. Sky sucks!)…

On May 11 I moved into a new flat (I moved to the flat next door and, leaving my router connected in the old flat, I could access my broadband service from the new one). On May 12 I went onto the Sky website to order the basic TV service, plus broadband and their phone service, including line rental. As my new flat has no phone line, I called the phone number Sky gave for such an eventuality. I discussed what I wanted, pointing out that I quite definitely had no phone line and specifically asked them to confirm that this wouldn’t be a problem. No, I was told, everything will be fine.

On the 16th my Sky dish was installed and Continue reading

Computer buyers beware…

Because, for me, a PC is essential, I’ve had to buy a new base unit when my laptop and desktop machines expired in quick succession. Money is very tight, so I ordered an “Arianet Value 2800 Intel PC” from aria.co.uk, along with an OEM copy of XP SP2 (you couldn’t pay me to have Vista).

I was so unimpressed that I was moved to post a review on their website, a review that I wasn’t allowed to post, for some reason, as the system “failed”. Or maybe it picked up on too many unfavourable keywords? Who knows? Anyway, since I can’t post it there, I can sure as hell post it here:-

Stock may vary from item pictured, it says. It does, too – a hell of a lot. There’s only one way to describe the case – dire. The metal, especially at the rear, is just a few microns away from actually being foil – I have grave doubts about it’s durability.

Only one side of the case is removable, which means that the HDD and optical drive are secured on one side only. This means that the optical drive flexes every time it’s opened and closed – how soon before the metal mount fails? It does nothing to damp down vibration, either, which will do nothing for the longevity of either drive.

The USB and audio ports aren’t on the front, as described, but under a little plastic door on the side – right where it’s likely to get broken when the PC is turned on its side for upgrading (the next job, now I’ve installed my wi-fi widget and a fax/data modem, will be installing a DVD-RW drive), and when you plug anything in to the USB ports, the whole thing is so light and flimsy it has to be physically restrained from sliding away – rubber feet would have helped, and cost coppers, and I’ll be adding them soon. And in a final stroke of genius, it’s quite impossible to screw down any expansion cards, as a frame member completely blocks access – dumb or what?

The onboard audio wasn’t installed, and the driver on the accompanying CD is corrupted – bad news for anyone without the savvy to find one online, or how to find the setup files when the Audio setup item disappeared from the CD’s menu (how on earth does that happen?). Not Aria’s fault, I know, but still…

That terrible case is their fault, though, and had I not been desperate for a computer – I’m disabled and housebound, my PC is my contact with the outside world, and both my laptop and backup desktop PC had died in quick succession – it would have gone straight back.

Does it work? Well, yes, it’s fine, so far, but these days its pretty hard to assemble a PC that doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the market for a decent case quite soon, though.

End.

So there you have it, if you want a budget PC, be wary of any vendor who publishes images that bear no resemblance to the actual product, because there’s no telling what sort of crap you’ll wind up with.

I’ve been shopping online for many years, and I’ve bought several PCs in that time. This is the first time I’ve received the package and thought “They’ve sent me an empty box,” that’s how light this thing is – it’s ridiculously flimsy and the design of the case is, to put it bluntly, shit. The case, by the way, retails at Aria for the very unprincely sum of £19.92 – and that’s more than the buggerdly thing is worth!

Oh, and my disposition wasn’t improved by an email-shot, the day after it was delivered, telling me it had been reduced by £12!

Update:- And to add insult to injury, I bought an additional gig of memory, only to get another ad, 48 hours later, with the bloody thing reduced by 50%! They do seem to go to great lengths to piss customers off…

Four cups of tea a day ‘good for the heart’ – yeah, right…

More potential ToS-breaching material came to my notice today, this time about tea and heart disease. I can’t ignore it, so in future I’ll just post a brief squib, like this, with a link to the Ron’s Rants page of my website, where, in future, I’ll post sensitive stuff that might get me chucked off here. That page is HERE.

I may be being paranoid about this, but, as I said, a breach gets your blog deleted without notice or appeal, and I really can’t afford to lose all my work.

Suckers, queue here…

Just as there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, so there are bollocks, total bollocks, and advertising.

Not content with persuading the terminally gullible that they daren’t go outdoors without a bottle of water clutched in a sweaty paw, lest they succumb to dehydration on the way to the pub (look, almost no-one in this country needs to carry water, unless indulging in strenuous physical activity OK?), now fresh from Japan (and now available here, next to California the natural home of the sucker), we have – wait for it – ANTIWRINKLE MARSHMALLOWS!!

Each grapefruit-flavoured Hello Beauty Collagen Marshmallow is “packed” with 3,000mg of allegedly complexion-enhancing collagen. The manufacturer suggests that eating 50g (half a pack), of their product a day can have a similar effect to collagen injections. This is the absolute epitome of bollocks.

Let’s consider collagen. You can see this to its best effect in shin beef – the silvery lines between the segments of red muscle is collagen, aka connective tissue – it connects muscles to each other, to the bones, and to the skin – preventing the body just being a bag of loose meat and organs – hence “connective”), and, when cooked long and slow, it vanishes or becomes soft and jelly-like (cooked hard and fast, as when fried, it’s unpleasantly tough). It’s present to some degree in most cuts of meat, and in any form, it’s eminently digestible.

And there you have the crux of the problem – anything you put into your stomach is treated as food, so when you eat one of these expensive marshmallows (it works out at £1.15 a day, for the equivalent of 3grams of gristle), your stomach sees it as food – which, of course, it is, breaking it down and moving it into your small intestine for further processing for it’s its amino acids, fats, sugars and anything else your body finds useful. What assuredly will NOT happen is that the collagen will find its way specifically to your face.

The component parts of the collagen will be distributed around your body at need and – trust me on this – your body doesn’t give a fig for your wrinkles! And while looking for a substitute for collagen injections – which are probably painful and can go horribly wrong, the body will, eventually, absorb that collagen too – so how is pushing the stuff through your digestive system in any way at all a good idea?**

**The same thing applies to arthritis remedies involving taking collagen, or its components, as supplements.

And think about vegetarians and vegans – they don’t consume collagen and yet are no more likely to be wrinkly than meat-eaters, so this idea just doesn’t hold water, no matter which way you look at it. If you’re young, and want to minimise wrinkles as you get older, then don’t bake yourself in the sun, and don’t smoke. That will benefit your skin arguably more than anything else, and won’t cost you anything.

If you still think this is a good thing, though, then I suggest that you buy some shin beef, carrots, onions and peas, and make yourself a nice beef stew. A small bowl for lunch each day will do you far more good. It’ll still do damn all for your wrinkles, though…

Censorship is coming…

The goverment’s urge to censor the Internet seems to be gathering momentum. The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, said he wanted to see online content meet the same standards (for sex and violence), required for television. Why on earth should it?

Despite what latter-day Mary Whitehouses would have you believe, it’s almost impossible to have porn thrust upon you online – you have to actively seek it out. On TV, at least in theory, it can leap unbidden onto our screens though, apart from the occasional movie, I can’t recall the last time I saw nudity on TV, never mind sex. OK – I can – it was in Californication, but in that context not even the most pathologically puritanical could take offence at it. This was sex as fun, which is probably an alien concept to the likes of Burnham – it certainly was for Whitehouse, who would take offence at the most innocuous scenes (by the way, when she was banging on, in her early days, about the torrent of filth on TV, it sure as hell wasn’t on my telly!). And here’s a thought – her fellow-traveller, Lord Longford, once said that exposure to porn was immensely corrupting, yet he saw more porn, during a long life spent interfering with the rights of others – in the interests of censorship, of course – than any ten people you care to name but, oddly, didn’t consider himself corrupted. Basically, porn was OK for him, but we can’t be trusted with it! And in that, you have the essence of censorship.

Given, though, that it’s impossible to censor the Net without the co-operation of every ISP, I can’t see it working. After all, we’re paying ISPs to provide connections, not to decide for us which websites we can visit. As an adult, only one person has the right to decide what I look at – me.

Children are a different issue – they don’t pay so they don’t have any rights online, but it’s up to the parents to control them, not the government or ISPs. And this takes us back to an earlier point – sexual content doesn’t lie in wait for the unwary – it has to be fetched to the screen. Also, when it comes to plain vanilla sex – and there’s a lot of that online, for reasons that elude me (I’ve been online for 12 years – the novelty of watching other people fuck has long since worn off), sex isn’t a spectator sport, but I seriously doubt that a child would be damaged by watching it. BDSM and other, allegedly deviant, fringe activities, though, may have undesirable effects on kids, but they are pastimes for consenting adults, and it’s incumbent upon parents to ensure their kids do not have access to this, or anything else they might be tempted to dangerously emulate. It’s not a job for the service providers.

Children need censorship for their own protection, adults do not. It could be – and, indeed, has been – argued that psychologically vulnerable adults may be at risk, and/or be moved to put others at risk, as a result of watching “unsuitable” material. True enough – and the same applies to kids, too – but forget about the Internet; if they want such material they only have to hire, or buy, DVDs, to get more sex and violence than you can shake a stick at. I don’t see anyone clamouring to ban the sale, or hire of DVDs, or Bowdlerise them into incomprehensibility.

No, the problem that governments, and assorted busy-bodies, most of whom really need to get a life, have with the Internet is that it’s outside their control and they haven’t – yet – found a way to tax it. Censorship may be the thin end of the wedge, with adults having to buy a licence to enable free access to the entire Net. Or maybe I’ve just given them an idea – oh, bugger!

Where does censorship stop, though? Banning Internet porn and/or violence is probably just the thin end of the wedge (don’t get me wrong about violence – see my previous post). Television, of course, has been heavily censored for years – ask yourself when you last saw sex and nudity (apart from Californication!), on your screens. Movies on TV are censored by advertising – have been for a long time on the analogue channels -and just when it looks as if it might get a bit rude, someone tries to sell you bleach! I don’t know about satellite channels. You do get the odd bit of non-sexual nudity on Four and Five, though (and last night, on Five,if you saw Naked Parents, in the Hidden Lives strand, you probably wished you hadn’t!).

When, then, can we expect the censorship campaign to extend to books and other printed matter, I wonder? And not just top-shelf mags but publications containing “undesirable” ideas. Once the idea that censorship is in any way desirable or permissible takes hold – and if we allow the first step, subsequent steps will be impossible to prevent – then we may as well all go and live in China or North Korea, where even our thinking will be done for us…

A caveat – I woud be quite happy for Grey’s Anatomy to be censored – god forbid that Ellen Pompeo, now a grotesque bag of bones, should ever be allowed to take her clothes off!

Duffy – a triumph of hype over reality?

Am I the only person who thinks Duffy’s CD is, to a large extent, dull and uninteresting? Rarely has a singer been so massively hyped – for a while you couldn’t open a newspaper without finding an article about how wonderful she was, or about her Scouse/Wirral roots (Rock Ferry, babe, is two words), long before the reality of her CD hits the stores.

I haven’t bought a CD in years, as I download my music these days, yet when I saw the CD in Sainsbury’s I just tossed it in the trolley – I still don’t know why.

When I got it home it sat on the printer for a couple of weeks, as I had a horrible suspicion, which I didn’t want confirmed, that the few tracks played on the radio were the only good ones.

Finally, I shoved Duffy in the car’s CD player and went out for a drive. And I was transported straight back to the sixties! Not in a good way, either, but to the sixties when LPs had one or two decent tracks and loads of low-grade filler tracks.

OK – maybe I’m being unkind, but after all the hype I expected more. What I got was a couple of rather good tracks – Mercy and the title track – and a lot of uninspired and uninspiring music filling up the rest of the space (damn short CD too). It’s not actually, bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as it should have been, considering all the pre-release hype.

Duffy seems to have been lauded by the Northern Soul brigade (I was into proper Stax and Altantic- based soul, and a regular at Liverpool’s Mardi Gras club in the sixties), and I can’t for the life of me understand why. You can’t dance to this stuff – not unless it’s ballroom.

Basically, Duffy (the CD, not the person), is far too one-dimensional. It cried out for some variation in tempo that almost never arrived. There is clearly talent on show, but it’s not showcased. To me it says, yeah, I’m an OK singer (though she is a tad strident – tutoring would iron that out), and I can do better than this, but I can’t be bothered.

I think that there is some very good music lurking in Duffy (the person). I hope so anyway, otherwise, if this CD really is her at her best, her career is likely to be rather short. Mind you, the Streets have demonstrated that there’s a market for truly awful music, and Duffy’s way better than that, so maybe she’ll do well. Time will tell.

Her next CD, though, I’m downloading! It’s cheaper…

Update: Since writing this I’ve had a slight change of mind. Catching Duffy on the radio, one track at a time, I’m happy to listen – individually, the tracks are fine, if a little rough around the edges. I still think there’s not enough variation between tracks, when listening to the CD as a whole, to stave off ennui…