Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
From InfoAve Premium Issue #122 - February 17, 2006
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A Little Chat

Staring out the window on a cloudy, windy, but warm winter day, I wondered for awhile what I should write about for this week's rant. Suddenly I decided to have a little chat about whatever crosses my mind. It may be a little discontinuous, but then so am I.

A number of topics crossed my mind: the recent study which shows that a low-fat diet isn't much better for you than a regular-fat diet (if there is such a thing); a study that showed calcium plus vitamin D supplements don't do much more than increase your chances of getting kidney stones; and the totally unrelated stuff like the new Internet money-making schemes where somewhere along the way we're all going to get charged to send email and probably, further down the line, to search the Internet.

There's so many things happening right now on the Internet and off of it, it's hard to narrow down a topic for discussion. So, why not chat a little bit about them all?

To Your Health

Fat Chance

"The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet reduces the risk of getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet has no effect.

The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today. ..." (Reference this link)

I guess I was a little surprised that those who eat Twinkies and scarf down Big Macs are not too much worse off than those who eat kudzu salads and been sprouts sprinkled with lemon juice. This proves, once again, there is no justice in the world. How'd you like to be an M.D. and have dozens of patients on tasteless, bland, low-fat, high-fiber diets - and then have them all read that study that shows that those who eat a high-fat diet have about the same risks for the same nasty health problems? I guess if nothing else, you'll be nice and skinny on a diet of kudzu and lemon juice - and there's no study (yet) that proves being fat is better for you or at least no worse for you than being skinny. However, there might be one next week - I'll be watching for that one. I guess what my grandmother told me, years ago, is the best advice: "Everything in moderation". Heck, why don't the medical madrigals sing that mantra? They could have learned a lot from my grandmother, who, as far as I know, never finished high school.

Bone Shattering News 

"....The latest news about calcium and vitamin D may not look so encouraging, but most experts say the take-home message is the same: Keep taking your pills.

The biggest study ever to examine the value of the supplements suggests they convey only limited protection against broken bones. They failed to protect against most fractures in the mostly low-risk women, but seemed to offer some benefit against hip breaks among women over 60 and those who took the pills most faithfully...."(Reference this article)

The study that shows that taking calcium supplements with vitamin D to help reduce osteoporosis doesn't work very well, if at all. It does increase your chance of getting kidney stones though. So, if you like those, take lots of calcium I guess. Milk has lots of calcium and vitamin D (in the U.S.A.). Milk used to be good for you. It's probably not good for you anymore. But it is very good with Oreo cookies which are part of a high-fat regimen, not recommended by most doctors. Yet.

Then, due to extreme curiosity, I went about finding out how much time doctors spend in medical school learning about nutrition. And, you know what? They don't spend much time at all leaning about nutrition and the role it plays in human health. I think, if I have navigated and digested (no pun intended, I assure you) the medical school curricula correctly, it seems medical students take one or two courses in nutrition as it is related to health - and that's it. It doesn't seem like much if nutrition plays as big of role in our health as we're being told by the food people. And, I am absolutely certain med students don't serve any internship in institutional kitchens. So, if there is a doctor reading this, please enlighten me if I'm incorrect.

Of course the way it's been going - what's fact today is fiction tomorrow. I guess they can't really teach nutrition since nobody can agree what kind of "nutrition" is best for us. I guess that's why we see health nuts who die at age 40 and wicked old geezers who smoke, drink, and ah! yes, eat Oreos too, live to be 100.  I think my grandmother's advice was timeless - "Everything in moderation".

One more thing: I guess it's good to eat oatmeal. Or so the oatmeal box says. I remember ten or so years ago, Quaker Oatmeal boxes contained a huge statement that eating oatmeal 'may' prevent certain types of cancer. Now, I see that's been proved wrong. Now their boxes proclaim that eating oatmeal lowers cholesterol. This time they left the word "may" off their label. That means it reduces cholesterol for certain. Right? We'll see. I won't be surprised to see some big study come along soon that proves eating oatmeal isn't any better than eating cherry pie. If you like oatmeal eat it. If you like cherry pie eat it. I am very skeptical of food labeling these days. I have to admit I've never seen a cherry pie claim that eating it will do anything for you other than taste good. Especially with milk.

And, now, let's see if we can create a smooth transition here into things Internet.

The Internet Gone Crazy

Email Stamps And Premium Searches

Let's go back to 1996 - ten years ago. I was a mere fledgling groping in the dark and learning the Internet by trial and error. There were few "commercial" sites on the Web. The only one I can remember from back then was "Amazon.com". Of course, all that has changed now. Nearly gone now is the spirit of sharing and giving that existed ten years ago. I supposed it had to come to this. Those who gave and gave and gave found that people took and took and took. I suppose that is human nature. If someone wants to give something that someone else wants, they're most likely going to take it. Can you imagine if Wal-Mart starting giving things away. People would be trampling each other to get stuff. At least on the Internet you don't worry about getting trampled. Don't read anything into this: I don't believe that Wal-Mart is going to start giving away all their merchandise free anytime soon - there's a much chance of that as the Internet returning to its innocent days of ten years ago.

Now I'm seeing signs that the Internet is about to take commercialization to a new level. AOL's recent announcement that they're going to charge a fee to legitimate companies to "ensure" delivery of email to its customers, is a sign of the times. And, it is the first step in a not-so-long journey to the stuff that once was only an urban legend - email stamps or charging everyone to send email. Even if it's less than a penny per email, it takes away the freedom and the right we have all enjoyed of sending emails back and forth to our families and friends. Sometimes, if our families and friends live very far away, email might be our main and even only contact we have with them. Email "stamps" might start off very inexpensive - something like 100 stamps for $1.00. But it doesn't take a fortune teller where it will go from there. In a year or two it will be 50 stamps for $1.00. Then 10 stamps for $1.00. And so on. One thing for sure: When companies see they can make a buck from something the price will continue to rise. Once it gets started there will be no stopping it. It will become the email snowball we've all feared.

Even worse things are happening. Yesterday I read an article which discussed how some Internet companies want to charge search engines and the general public for accessing web sites that are hosted on their servers - and which use their bandwidth. They claim that Yahoo, Google, MSN and the other search engines rip off free content whenever these search engines gather content from sites that happen to be on their servers. This uses up bandwidth, they claim, and bandwidth costs money. This is ridiculous, or course. Search engines provide a service that few of us could get along without. If certain Web hosts deny access to any and all search engines - we all suffer because our results will be restricted. And search engines use up bandwidth - tons of it and this bandwidth is not paid for by the sites these search engines gather information from, but by the search engines that gather the information.

And if search engines are charged to access certain domains then either those domains won't be accessed at all and our search results will therefore be incomplete; or the search engines will be coerced into paying the ransom asked and we'll be charged to use a "premium" version MSN, Google, or Yahoo if we want "all" the search results.

There's simply no end to mindless schemes conjured up by corporate executives, who probably know more about toothpaste than they do about the Internet - or those who use it. One thing they certainly know about is the bottom line. And of course, anything that promises huge and steady streams of money sounds good to them on paper. And if they can sell their ideas to eager investors, it's a done deal. But, in reality, such an Internet would be a mess. A mess that would restrict our freedom to access information on the Internet. Once you restrict access to information on the Internet, the Internet and all who use it suffer. The beauty of the Internet is unrestricted access to information - whatever it may be. To charge search engines for accessing information on certain web sites, in a bone-headed attempt to ramp-up revenues, is a mistake.

Let's hope intellect prevails over greed for once.

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