This is Your Brain on Beer

December 3, 2014 · Filed Under Food and Drink, Political · Comment 

If you grew up in America in the ’70s or ’80s, you certainly know this ad that was played on TV.  Even then it was very controversial, and no one really took it seriously, but it was an important part of the mindset that led to the war on drugs.  It was part of this vague, pseudo-science, that in effect was to make young people believe cigarettes were the only safe drug to use.

We’ve just had a similar ‘education campaign’ in Europe, that led to the drinking age being raised in several places, including Holland.  This happened even over the objections of parents of young people, the majority of whom wanted their children to continue to be able to buy alcohol.  Drinking damages the brains of young people, was the rallying call.  Isn’t it time we grew up, and stopped this kind of nonsense?

A recent study now shows no statistical correlation between alcohol use in young people and brain development.  How is this study different from all those other studies in the past that showed young brains were damaged?  Well, previous studies concentrated on young people who had signs of dependence on alcohol, and who often had other psychiatric problems.  This latest study focused on a typical cross section of the population, and compared young but otherwise normal drinkers with their non-drinking counterparts.

Labeling Calories is Misleading and Should be Banned

October 31, 2014 · Filed Under Food and Drink, Science · Comment 

It wasn’t long ago since tar and nicotine content labeling were determined misleading and removed from cigarette packaging. Not only misleading, but a powerful advertising mechanism, making addicted customers think they were buying a safer product. Now it’s time to take the next big step in consumer protection, and ban labeling of calories in food.

What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a measure of heat. Quite literally, in order to determine the amount of calories in food, the food is set alight and the amount of heat given off is measured.

Since our bodies don’t metabolize food this way, there’s no meaningful comparison that can made between calories and human health.

What do we Know About the Effect of Calories on our Health?

Some studies have shown for example a relationship between eating a lot of high calorie food and weight gain, or eating fewer calories and loosing weight. It might be that some health professional recommends some specific diet that might include a change in the number of calories.

Statistics show however that most people who try to lose weight with a low calorie diet nearly always fail in the end, and gain back even more weight. I would be very suspicious of any health professional recommending such a diet.

In any case, this weight gain or loss is not always permanent, and nothing credible can be said about it’s effect on our health. Any generalized statement on public health related to calories would not be credible, and likewise labeling foods with their calorie content is misleading to consumers.

Any public campaign that results in people eating more or fewer calories, is food company propaganda, as they strive to make ever more money off of misleading people in their perception of their own health.

How is Food Calorie Content Used?

Around the time of WWII and just before, protein was used as a measure for food and ‘food quality’. This is the major reason why meat and dairy production was so dramatically increased in the years following the war. In these years, the chicken egg was often identified as ‘the perfect food’, because it’s almost pure protein. In some Germanic languages the word for protein is the same as egg white, probably for this reason.

In the years after choosing protein as the measure of food quality, a major backlash occurred. This was primarily because by this measure a vegetarian diet was inadequate, and most of the world at the time was vegetarian or vegan. There was quite a lot of indignation as institutions such as the WHO began imposing high protein diets on the world’s population, in the name of improving public health.

We should receive current efforts to change our calorie intake with the same indignation.

After much debate, protein was eventually replaced with calories. I think most people involved in this issue don’t recognize calories as a great improvement over protein, only that it no longer stigmatizes a vegetarian diet.

After choosing calorie, it became clear this measure also had it’s flaws. Different people and cultures react differently on a diet with a fixed numbers of calories. It depends a lot on how active you are, as well as your age, sex and genetic factors. They ‘fixed’ this problem by creating various charts, and acceptable calorie ranges, instead of trying to work from a single number.

There’s really nothing any more that can be said about diets being healthy according to calories than there was with protein, only no one has a better idea at the moment of a another measure to use.


October 23, 2014 · Filed Under Pat 'n' Steph · 2 Comments 

Watch out for Markplaats!

Here’s another post not very related to seeds and gardening.  It’s also somewhat specific to the Netherlands, but I think it’s a useful thing to be in English, because there are expats who may read this.  Those of you who live other places may have similar websites. is a website owned by Ebay, and primarily a place where you can put up free classified ads to buy and sell second hand things, either for a fixed price or auction.  It used to be an independent site, but got bought early on by Ebay.  It’s sort of a mini Dutch language Ebay, with things specific to the Netherlands.  As well as classified ads, it’s possible to leave reviews, giving your opinions on the merchants.  As well as free ads, there are various paid options, like better placement or the ability to mention an external website.  It’s very popular here, or at least used to be.

I regularly read comments on the Internet of people who try to use free ads.  They say they end up placed on page 9 or something, completely unfindable.  People also complain that as soon as you sign up and give them your email address, they flood you with spam, and you can never get them to stop.  It’s pretty clear, maybe logical, that they really only care about their customers who place paid ads.

It’s also not as safe a site as you might think.  It was in the news recently, that someone was arrested for pretending to sell tickets to events, but then just taking people’s money.  He ripped off more than 200 people before he was stopped, which is a lot of people for a country as small as the Netherlands.  You might wonder why on a site where you can leave comments about merchants, so many people would get ripped off.  The way it should work, is people should be able to leave reviews and ratings, and honest people should build up their own reputation.  Dishonest people should have a hard time getting established.

Well I just got ripped off using Marktplaats the other day, and in the process I learned something important about how it works.

I don’t usually use Marktplaats to buy and sell stuff, rather I look for services.  In this case, I was looking for a plumber.  I choose a plumber who had been on Marktplaats for 7 years or something silly like that, and only had positive reviews, all of them spread out one or two at a time, over the entire 7 years.  The name on the ad was ‘Daniel’, and only a mobile phone number and email address was given for contact information.  I also chose him based on geographic location, an option in the site’s search engine, because I only wanted to work with someone based nearby.

As it turned out, he had paid for multiple listings in multiple locations, and actually came from out of town.  Not only did he have multiple locations for the name ‘Daniel’, but I was able to see later that he also had multiple listings under other names.  When he showed up at my house, he wore a sort of uniform with the name AKC-Loodgieters, and there is a website with this name.

After getting ripped off by him, I went to Marktplaats to leave a negative review.  I created a new account using a disposable email address, clicked away their terms and conditions, and left my review which appeared instantly.  It was a pretty straight forward review, saying I was ripped off, explaining how and why, and advising others to choose another plumber.

Ik heb geen specifiek klachten over de qualiteit van de werkzaamheden, maar Daniel is geen bijzonder vakman. Ik heb €1450 betaald voor iets met waarde €700. Daniel biedt geen eerlijk dienst voor geen eerlijk prijs, en wel een oplichter is.

Eerst was de onderzoek. Voor dit moet ik €500 vooruit betalen. Hij moet naar Almere rijden voor een héél duur (2000 euro) apparaat met en camera om binnen mijn rioolering te kijken. Daniel was agressief en grof over dit vooruit betaling, dat niet normaal is. Hij was niet duidelijk hoezo dit zo duur moeten zijn. Dit onderzoek was met waarde €200, inclusief duur apparaat, en was niet sluitende over de oorzaak van de probleem.

Ten slotte was de reparatie. Eerst biedt Daniel een prijs van €2000, helemaal vooruit betaald. Dit heeft niets te doen met de werkzaamheden, gewoon wat ik was klaar om te betalen voor een oplossing. Daarna praten wij over de specifiek werkzaamheden, en komt naar een prijs van €700 inclusief onderdeel (Daniel zeg hij dacht de onderdeel kost €200), ook 100% vooruit betalen. Daniel daarna belt mij te zeggen de onderdeel was €450 en eist nog een betaling van €250, anders gebruikt hij een laag *qualiteit alternatief. Een gelijk onderdeel is wel bestelbaar op voor €60-150, afhankelijk van qualiteit. Dit reparatie, inclusief onderdeel, heeft waarde van €500.

Dit advertentie heeft geen legitimatie bewijs, geen website, alleen een 06 nummer en de naam ‘Daniel’. Het zeg niets dat Daniel werkt ook als bedrijf AKC Loodgeiters. Je betaald contant, geen PIN, altijd 100% vooruit, altijd met grof en agresief eisen. Als je moet politie of jurdisch hulp, heeft je echt niets.

Bescherm je geld en veiligheid, kies een andere loodgeiter.

A few hours later, my review was removed and my newly created account was blocked.  I seem to have been banned from Marktplaats for leaving a negative review!  I started researching their terms and conditions, to see what I may have violated.  I found this: “Mag geen scheld- of kwetsende woorden bevatten”, which says reviews cannot contain swearing or ‘hurtful’ words.  It says if you violate these rules and are banned, you can contact their helpdesk and ask to be reinstated.

It’s now been 3 days since I sent a message to their helpdesk asking the reason my review was removed, and they haven’t answered  They seem much more interested in removing negative reviews then they are at helping you leave a negative review that satisfies their criteria as acceptable, and doesn’t contain any ‘hurtful’ words.  It would of course been no problem if I had created 3 or 4 new accounts with disposable email addresses, and left multiple positive reviews.

It’s now very clear to me how someone was able to cheat more than 200 people before being stopped by the police.  It’s much easier to file a police report than place a negative review!


A few hours after making this post an item appeared in the news [in Dutch].

It says at least 8 times this year Marktplaats thieves used violence against their victims.  In different cases there were different injuries.  In one case a person lost a piece of their tooth.

Spam, Salt, Sugar, Spam, Spam, Fat and Spam

October 5, 2014 · Filed Under Food and Drink, Political, Science · Comment 

The Netherlands is a tiny country, but even still is the worlds second largest exporter of food.  Chances are, if you eat a tasteless tomato, cucumber or gouda cheese, that’s been imported, it’s probably from here.

When the WRR issues a report [in Dutch], a think tank which advises the government on food policy, the chances are good the consequences of this will be heard around the world.

The report goes into some detail on how production of meat and dairy are bad for the environment.  Basically the problem is the animal feed here is based largely on GMO soy imported from Latin America, at great expense to the environment and livelihoods of people there.  It’s then fed to the farm animals here, which live in factory farms and poop it out.   It’s then spread all over the country, which contaminates pretty much everything.

Many farmers are extremely unhappy, because there are actually EU rules on how much animal waste can be disposed of in this way, and they are regularly at or over these limits in the Netherlands.  These rules make it much more expensive for the farmers, because they have to export the waste to other countries.

As well as polluting the environment, diets based on this food are making people fat and causing health problems all over the world.  This type of food production is also one of the major contributors to global warming.

After a reasonably good general analysis of the problem, the report advises the Dutch government to use their influence around the world to oblige people to eat less dairy, meat, sugar, salt and ‘bad’ fats.

Where did the sugar, salt and fat come from?  As far as this report is concerned, it seems to have come out of the blue.  The report has a number of citations for different things, but nothing that seems to lead to any credible justification for this.  It just is, because, well they are a think tank and so must be awesome.

Of course trying to eat less salt, sugar and ‘bad’ fat, can only lead you to more industrial processed foods.  It’s no problem to make processed foods without these ingredients.  It may really taste bad, but when you make foods in a laboratory or factory, you can make it any way you want.  Small farmers on the other hand, depend on these ingredients.

Nothing in this report suggests people should eat more locally or naturally produced food.  Could it be that the people’s message, demanding higher quality and sustainable food, is being spammed by governments and the food industry?

Kokopelli Wins Baumaux Civil Case, But EU Seed Law Upheld

September 19, 2014 · Filed Under EU Seed Legislation, Political, Seeds · Comment 

In a case that’s now been going on for 10 years, a French appeals court finally decided for Kokopelli in the matter of civil damages.  This is according to a mail sent to Kokopelli’s newsletter mail list.  Please check the Kokopelli website for more information.

In short, Baumaux claimed that Kokopelli was violating the law by by failing to register their seeds, at the cost of 150 euros for each of their 14,500 varieties.  This according to Baumaux gave Kokopelli a larger number of varieties than Baumaux, and an unfair business advantage.  The judge decided there was no obstacle to Baumaux offering the same varieties if they choose, and the 150 euro registration fee was small in comparison to the damages claimed.

The judge did however reaffirm the legality of the EU seed law, and that Kokopelli was in violation of this.  This could have consequences for other court cases.

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