Archive for October, 2013

They Are All Dead, Dave

Lister: Where is everyone Hol?

Holly: They’re dead Dave.

Lister: Who is?

Holly: Everybody Dave.

Lister: What Captain Holister?

Holly: Everybody’s dead Dave.

Lister: What Todd Hunter?

Holly: Everybody’s dead Dave.

Lister: What Selby?

Holly: They’re all dead, everybody’s dead Dave.

Lister: Peterson isn’t, is he?

Holly: Everybody is dead Dave.

Lister: Not Chen?

Holly: Gorden Bennet, yes Chen, everybody, everybody’s dead Dave.

Lister: Rimmer?

Holly: He’s dead Dave, everybody’s dead, everybody is dead Dave.

Lister: Wait, are you trying to tell me everybody’s dead? (Red Dwarf: The End)

I find the great problem with getting older is not so much the realisation of my own mortality but that of everyone else’s. The older I get the more colleagues seem to drop off the perch. Mentors, advisors, friends, teachers, (mother, Lou Reed) who have been there my entire life (or feel like they have) are suddenly gone. Obviously no one lives forever but it still comes as a shock when someone who seems to have been there forever, existing as a guiding light and force for stability, is no more. My incredulity is especially great when I was talking with them at a conference only a few days/weeks/months before. This disbelief seems trite but is no less real for having been expressed many times before.

Dr. F. Bunny

“There’s a bit of magic in everything and then some loss to even things out.” (Lou Reed)

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Marathon Man(iac)

Now that I have had time to think about it, and my various aching body parts have had time to become slightly less aching, I wish to recant my comment on the “Marathon Man” post. I am in a big rush to do it again. I feel that I have unfinished business.

True, my first goal: to finish the marathon, was reached. However, my second goal, finishing under four hours, was not achieved (4 hrs, 8 min, 57 sec). What’s worse, for the first time in a race, despite giving it everything I had, I feel that I could have done better. While I finished strongly in the half marathon I all but fell over the line at the end of the marathon. Had I prepared properly, bitten the bullet and gone on those 30+ km training runs my body may have been better prepared to withstand the buffeting it received. Even as late as the 40 km mark I could still have got under the magic four hours, if things hadn’t fallen completely apart.

Over the previous months I had been making slow but steady progress. By gradually increasing the distance from 5 km to 10 km to 15 km and finally to 21 km (the half marathon) the runs ceased to be a painful struggle but something that could be enjoyed and accomplished with relative ease. Jumping from my previous longest run of 24 km all the way to 42 km was always destined to be doomed to failure. But I did not want to put in the work or the effort. During the marathon I saw a friend of mine running with what looked to be very little fuss and bother, but then he spent numerous weeks in the lead up running 30-35 km every Sunday. The result? He finished in 3 hrs, 10 min.

I should feel proud of my achievement, and I do, but something still nags and gnaws at me, something unfulfilled. The prospect of doing it all again, including the much more rigorous training program, certainly seems daunting at the moment and only time will tell if I decide to have another crack or leave it all to lie where it fell and move on to my next bizarre challenge (climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, I think).

Dr. F. Bunny

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Study: Herbal Products Omit Ingredients, Contain Fillers


October 11, 2013 – News Release

Consumers of natural health products beware. The majority of herbal products on the market contain ingredients not listed on the label, with most companies substituting cheaper alternatives and using fillers, according to new research from the University of Guelph.

The study, published today in the journal BMC Medicine, used DNA barcoding technology to test 44 herbal products sold by 12 companies.

Only two of the companies provided authentic products without substitutions, contaminants or fillers.

Overall, nearly 60 per cent of the herbal products contained plant species not listed on the label.

Researchers detected product substitution in 32 per cent of the samples.

More than 20 per cent of the products included fillers such as rice, soybeans and wheat not listed on the label.

“Contamination and substitution in herbal products present considerable health risks for consumers,” said lead author Steven Newmaster. An integrative biology professor, he is botanical director of the Guelph-based Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO), home of the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding.

“We found contamination in several products with plants that have known toxicity, side effects and/or negatively interact with other herbs, supplements and medications.”

One product labelled as St. John’s wort contained Senna alexandrina, a plant with laxative properties. It’s not intended for prolonged use, as it can cause chronic diarrhea and liver damage and negatively interacts with immune cells in the colon.

Several herbal products contained Parthenium hysterophorus (feverfew), which can cause swelling and numbness in the mouth, oral ulcers and nausea. It also reacts with medications metabolized by the liver.

One ginkgo product was contaminated with Juglans nigra (black walnut), which could endanger people with nut allergies.

Unlabelled fillers such as wheat, soybeans and rice are also a concern for people with allergies or who are seeking gluten-free products, Newmaster said.

“It’s common practice in natural products to use fillers such as these, which are mixed with the active ingredients. But a consumer has a right to see all of the plant species used in producing a natural product on the list of ingredients.”

Until now, verifying what’s inside capsules or tablets has posed challenges, Newmaster said. His research team developed standard methods and tests using DNA barcoding to identify and authenticate ingredients in herbal products.

“There is a need to protect consumers from the economic and health risks associated with herbal product fraud. Currently there are no standards for authentication of herbal products.”

Medicinal herbs now constitute the fastest-growing segment of the North American alternative medicine market, with more than 29,000 herbal substances sold, he said.

More than 1,000 companies worldwide make medicinal plant products worth more than $60 billion a year.

About 80 per cent of people in developed countries use natural health products, including vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies.

Canada has regulated natural health products since 2004. Regulators face a backlog of licence applications, and thousands of products on the market lack a full product licence. Globally, regulatory problems involving natural health products continue to affect consistency and safety, Newmaster said.

“The industry suffers from unethical activities by some of the manufacturers.”

The study also involved research associate Subramanyam Ragupathy, U of G student Meghan Gruric and Sathishkumar Ramalingam of Bharathiar University in India.

This research was supported by Genome Canada through the Ontario Genomics Institute; the Canada Foundation for Innovation; International Science and Technology Partnership Canada; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Contact: Prof. Steven Newmaster Department of Integrative Biology 519 824-4120, Ext. 56002 or 58581

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Marathon Man

“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?”

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” John F. Kennedy (

So too my son and I chose to run the Melbourne Marathon last Sunday, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Little did I realise exactly how hard it was going to be. I have been running for five years, gradually building up my distance and endurance. When I completed the half marathon in July in good time with relatively few aches and pains I felt ready to embark on the real thing. Little did I realise that a marathon is so much more than twice a half marathon. My previous longest run was 24 km and that lack of 30+ km experience came back to bite me on the day.

I completed the first half of the marathon with relative ease because my body was used to the pounding it received over that distance. But after about 25 km the legs began wondering what was happening and why we had not gone to collect our drink and finisher’s medal.

I ran on, inspired by a particularly energetic Motörhead track blasting into my ears. I began to set myself small goals to avoid thinking about how far I still had to run. A little cheer erupted in my head when I hit the 30 km mark. After 32 km I knew that the remaining kilometres could now be measured in single digits. Unfortunately the knowledge didn’t stop me flagging to the extent that, around 34 km, a fellow runner felt compelled to give me an encouraging pat on the back as she glided past. Still, I was doing better than that poor fellow lying on the stretcher, surrounded by paramedics, with a drip in his arm.

At 35 km there were only seven kilometres to go. Seven kilometres! I often ran seven kilometres. I could easily manage seven kilometres. Are you joking? There are still seven kilometres to go! And then the heavens opened up but I was in too much pain to notice. I kept slowing to a walk, willing myself back into a run and then, when the knee pain got too much, dropping back to a walk. At 37 km the inspirational speech given at the start of Tough Mudder ( burst into my ears. I “hoorahed” myself back into a run.

Turning the corner at 40 km, two kilometres from home, it felt like someone stuck a knife into my right knee. I crumpled but didn’t go over, dimly aware that an official photographer was busy recording every grimace to sell to me later. I slowed to a walk, a stumble, a shuffle. I figured I could manage the last two kilometres even if I had to crawl over the line, but that was not how I wanted to go out. I kept trying different running techniques to ease the pain in the knee: turning the leg outwards or shuffling sideways. I even contemplated running backwards. All around other runners ran past me.

I felt despondent, and then I saw the light towers of the MCG, the world’s greatest sporting stadium, the magnificent home of Australian Rules Football. The final 400 metres involved running a lap on the hallowed turf. No way was I going to walk this. I gritted my teeth and propelled myself into a lopsided, stumbling jog. I ran into the stadium, the stands of that great arena surrounding me. At 200 metres I stumbled and almost fell, but had just enough energy left to pass one final runner before collapsing over the finish line into the arms of my waiting son (I encouraged him to go on ahead at 25 km when it became obvious that I could no longer keep up). Sobbing and laughing simultaneously I felt so incredibly proud of us both.

As the adrenalin finally left my body I was utterly and totally spent. I had given my all, could barely move and felt close to passing out. A banana and a Powerade managed to restore some semblance of normality.

Now, three days later, I still feel tremendously buoyed by our accomplishment. I am sure family and friends are well and truly sick of hearing about it, which is why I thought I would tell you.

No doubt there are many who would consider this to be a ridiculously foolhardy expenditure of energy. Why run 42.2 km when you can drive that distance in a fraction of the time with absolutely no pain involved? I think this is one of the things that define us as a species. Had we taken the easy way and not risen to the challenge, made the effort or sacrificed our comfort I suspect we would all still be living in caves finger painting on the walls.

And now, I am going to have a nice lie down.

Dr. F. Bunny

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Islands become first UK haven for honeybees facing wipeout


Britain’s first honeybee reserve is to be set up on the Hebridean islands of Colonsay and Oronsay.

A Scottish Government order aiming to protect the species from cross-breeding and disease will come into force next January,

It will make it an offence to keep any species on the islands other than the British black honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera. The measure comes after a public consultation saw widespread support for a reserve.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the reserve should help preserve the black bee in the UK.

Mr Wheelhouse, who signed the order, said: “The Bee-Keeping Order illustrates how our non-native species legislation can be used to protect our native wildlife,” he said. There are currently around 50 colonies to be found on Colonsay and adjoining Oronsay.

The Government’s move is part of a ten-year Honeybee Health Strategy and has been welcomed by Colonsay beekeeper Andrew Abrahams. Abrahams has been working with bees on the island for more than 30 years and has campaigned for the islands to be recognised as a bee sanctuary.

“The reserve is important,” he said yesterday. “We’ve been working a long time to get it set up. The purpose is to conserve genetic material for the future before it’s all gone, to conserve the black bee which is the native bee of ­Scotland and of the whole UK.”

The black honeybee can vary in colour from black to brown and is hardy enough to survive the harsh climate of Scotland’s west coast. “It is adapted for Scottish conditions and to wet conditions and cooler conditions,” according to Dr Phil Moss, bee health convener of the Scottish Beekeeper’s Association,

Most of Britain’s native bee species – with the exception of a few pockets – were wiped out early in the 20th century by the Isle of Wight disease, caused by a parasitic mite. As a result, said Dr Moss: “There was a lot of importation of foreign bees from all over the world.”

These were then interbred with the native bee. Only pockets of native bees remained intact as a result. “Colonsay is reckoned to be one of the purest,” Dr Moss added.

The Scottish Beekeepers Association fully supports the reserve proposal, he said, seeing the move as an important step at a time when bee numbers are falling.

Britain’s bees are currently under threat from the varroa mite, first discovered in the UK in 1992. It has destroyed many colonies.

Colonsay was chosen as a reserve because its bees are free from the disease, and for its genetic purity. It was originally chosen as a site for an experimental breeding station back in 1941.

The decision to protect the black bee comes as countries across Europe have seen up to a quarter of honeybee colonies disappear in recent years. Pesticides, loss of habitat and disease have all been blamed. Bees are also under threat from global warming and changing climate.

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For God’s Sake

Testing. Testing. Is this thing on? Okay. Thanks.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am fed up with having sympathy for the devil, giving the devil his due or being the devil’s advocate. For someone who whinges about not getting enough air time Lucifer seems to be everywhere these days. Well I say, what about me? Isn’t it time we heard from the other side? From me? From God?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, today is your lucky day.

I will give him credit. Lu has made evil into an attractive proposition. It’s cool to be bad and dreadfully old fashioned to be good. But what exactly is cool about mass murder, genocide, theft, or rape? I don’t remember too many smiling victims saying how cool it felt to be slaughtered or have their houses burned to the ground. Never mind greed being good, good is good. Good is the new cool.

How cool is it when you forget your wallet only to have it returned, credit cards and cash intact? How cool is it when you are trapped in a wrecked car because a drunken idiot slammed into you and a bunch of strangers stop and pull you out? This is the sort of stuff you should get excited about, not gang wars, drugs and violence. Nobody wants to be a part of that.

And please stop trying to defend my honour. I am God and I don’t need anyone to fight my battles for me. I don’t want people to blow themselves and their neighbours to hell, because that is certainly where they are going, on my behalf. I am a big boy and I can look after myself. People have been killed in my name for centuries and I want it to stop. Now. I have to admit that I am really looking forward to meeting all those guys who tell everyone else to die for me. Oddly enough they don’t seem to be in any kind of rush to come and visit. I wonder why?

And what is it with the sex thing? I love sex. After all I invented it, didn’t I? Stop making it into some kind of dirty disgusting thing and have fun. Contraception is fine too. Everyone knows you can’t just keep reproducing forever. But celibacy hurts my feelings. It makes me think you don’t appreciate my gifts. So stop acting like Lucifer’s the fun guy and I am the stick in the mud. Lu’s idea of fun involves children and doing things without people’s consent.

Unlike Lu I want you to get on with your lives, with minimal interference from me. Sure I made you but, like a good parent, I know when to let go. I don’t want to tell you what to do every second of the day. I am happy to give you advice but you can take it or leave it. I want you to make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons. And don’t believe what is written in all those so called holy books. You know what the media is like when it comes to reporting facts.

Now, I like you, I really do. After all I made you in my image. But, like any parent, I can’t play favourites. I have to treat you all equal, so if you decide to break all your toys I am not going to make you new ones, and if you drive yourselves to extinction that will be sad, but I am not going to intervene. I have other children on other planets to worry about and I can only devote so much of my time to you. Personally I think it is time you all grew up, took responsibility for your lives and got on with it. I will always be here and I will always be your parent but now it is time for you to leave the nest and fly.

Good luck. And Ozzy, God is not dead, not by a long stretch.


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