Sunday, 13 April 2014

Two good eggs (and some mighty fine pork belly)

Today we went for Sunday brunch at Two Good Eggs cafe in Surry Hills, central Sydney.

A good Sunday brunch is probably my favourite meal of the week - not that we have brunch every week - and so it was exciting to go to a cafe that specialised in breakfast and brunch. Starting with a very good flat white, complete with little wafer, we were not disappointed.

The Two Good Eggs menu is pretty diverse and manages to hit both the usual favourites, such as pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, or Eggs Benedict, plus a whole bunch of creative dishes too.

I opted for something that I would never make myself at home: Roast pork belly with poached eggs, caramelised onion and sourdough toast. Delicious! The two eggs were indeed good, cooked to perfection and served atop tasty, crispy pork belly and sweet, sticky caramelised onions. The photo did not do it justice but an attempt seemed obligatory for something so good.

I was lucky enough to sample a couple of other dishes too: Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and avocado, and “Goats on toast”, a vegetarian dish of “Warm Trinity Cellars French goats cheese with drizzled honey and smashed walnuts on sour cherry fruit toast”. Both were very good, although I’m glad I went for the pork belly.

Not quite as cheap or close as the amazing sandwiches at One Six Nine cafe in Randwick, but I am already looking for excuses to go back! Top notch nosh.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Yet another lengthy investigation concludes that homeopathy is useless

Australia’s main body for health and medical research, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), has recently conducted an extensive review of the “evidence for homoeopathy in treating 68 clinical conditions”. Predictably, it concludes “there is no reliable evidence that homoeopathy is effective for treating health conditions”.

No surprise there, but hopefully another nail prepared for the coffin of homeopathy, should drug stores develop of conscience and/or people ever stop getting taken in by utter crap.

The figures are scary, though. According to the news.com.au:

Australians spend almost $4 billion a year on complementary therapies like vitamins and herbs and almost $10 million on homeopathic remedies.

That's $10 million wasted. $10 million dollars that could have been spent on actual medicine. And I shudder to think how much of that $4 billion is wasted on complementary therapies with zero benefit, or worse - probably most of it. To put that figure in context, it is over five times the entire NHMRC 2013/14 budget of $771.2 million for health/medical research funding.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the article was the response of the homeopaths themselves:

However, Australian Homeopathic Association spokesman Greg Cope said he was disappointed at the narrow evidence relied on by the NHMRC in its report.

“What they have looked at is systematic trials for named conditions when that is not how homoeopathy works,” he said.

Homoeopathy worked on the principle of improving a person’s overall health and wellness, and research such as a seven-year study conducted in Switzerland was a better measure of its usefulness, he said.

I’m sorry… what‽ Homeopathy is based on the (utterly discredited) 200-year-old notion that “substances that produce symptoms in a healthy person can be used to [effectively] treat similar symptoms in a sick person”. This is not the principle of “improving a person’s overall health and wellness”, this a principle of targeting specific named symptoms with specific substances. Specific substances that are then diluted far beyond the point that any molecules (or “memory” thereof) remains in the solution (which is then often dropped onto a sugar pill), but specific substances that cause specific symptoms nonetheless.

Mr Cope is right about one thing, though: homeopathy does not work by treating named conditions. Homeopathy does not work.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Don't be an April fool - get (your kids) vaccinated

If there’s one thing that irks me as much as Homeopathy, it’s the anti-vaccination crowd. Therefore, I think that posts like the recent “Dear parents, you are being lied to” at Violent metaphors, deserve as much publicity as they can get. It's a well structured piece, heavily laden with links for further reading, with a heartfelt plea:

In only one respect is my message the same as the anti-vaccine activists: Educate yourself. But while they mean “Read all these websites that support our position”, I suggest you should learn what the scientific community says. Learn how the immune system works. Go read about the history of disease before vaccines, and talk to older people who grew up when polio, measles, and other diseases couldn’t be prevented. Go read about how vaccines are developed, and how they work…

As Professor Simon Foote wrote around a year ago, Parents have a moral obligation to children. Make no mistake about it, failing to vaccinate puts both your children and the children of others at risk. (And not just children.) As the Jenny McCarthy body count reports, preventable deaths in the US alone have exceeded 1300 since 2007, with 100 times that number of preventable illnesses. Whilst not the sole cause, anti-vaxxers must take a share of the responsibility for this.

Like Jennifer Raff at Violent metaphors, I’m sure that some of those opposing vaccination and/or advocating “parental choice” are doing so with the best of intentions. However, good intentions are no defence against disease and anti-vaxxers across the spectrum should take a long, hard look at themselves and ask whether their reasons for opposing the overwhelming global medical and scientific consensus are worth endangering even one life.

If you're not sure, I highly recommend reading the whole article. And if that’s too tame for your tastes, there is also the classic “Angry scientist finds an uneducated internet comment and delivers an epic response…”, which has a slightly less nuanced (but also informative) correction of some anti-vaxxer lies.

The Cat & The Ducklings (Animal Odd Couples)

Via WEIT, here is a crazy/cheery "cat suckling ducklings" story that is fit to be an April Fool's joke but isn't!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

20% off The Cabbages of Doom

Yesterday was apparently International Waffle Day, which sounds a bit made-up to me but is excuse enough for Lulu.com to have a 20% sale until the 31st of March. Just use WAFFLESSAY20 to get 20% off The Cabbages of Doom (just 80p!) or for some graphic entertainment, I can recommend Jesus ‘n’ Mo.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Is imported bottled water the most environmentally-unfriendly way imaginable to slake your thirst?

Today is UN World Water Day 2014, which aims to raise awareness of the inter-linkages between water and energy and draw attention to the fact that “768 million people lack access to improved water sources”, many of whom presumably have no safe drinking water.

Meanwhile, in the developed world, we take our safe drinking water for granted so much that we are prepared to spend ludicrous amounts of money to ship in bottled water from other countries. Ignoring the environmental cost of the plastic bottles themselves, I shudder to think what the carbon footprint is to fly water to Australia from Europe.

Sydney, happily, is making some moves with Sydney TapTM, which is looking to replace bottled water with tap water. There are also lots of drinking fountains around, which is good.

San Francisco recently announced that it was going one further and banning the sale of bottled water below 21 ounces from city property. Hopefully, other cities will follow suit.

Personally, I would go further than this and ban bottled water altogether. Instead, shops should be able to sell empty reusable water bottles and refills of filtered water for a small fee. I'm sure it would take a bit of getting used to but people would soon learn to carry a water bottle with them. It hardly seems like a big sacrifice for the sake of our future and would act as a constant gentle reminder about the need to avoid excessive packaging.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The wet, wacky and wonderful Sydney's Paddy's Day parade

  Today, we went into central Sydney for the St Patrick’s Day parade. Despite living in Dublin for six years, this was actually my first Paddy’s Day parade. (I’ve never been that into parades, to be honest.) It was a lot more fun than I expected!

Things kicked off with an Irish icon, Spongebob Squarepants, warming up the crowd before the parade proper arrived. Unfortunately, the rain had also arrived - including a short Aussie thunderstorm downpour - but it failed to dampen the spirit of the parade. The Irish are used to a bit of rain, after all!

Although it featured some marching bands and the like, the parade had a somewhat charming, home-made feel, including a St Patrick with genuine cotton wool beard!

Highlight of the parade (for me, at least) was the Father Ted complete with cardboard “Careful now” and “Down with this sort of thing” placards.

St Patrick’s Day proper is tomorrow: have a good one!

(A few more pics here.)