The Porridge, Popcorn and Prawns diet

I recently finished losing about 40 pounds, or around 3 stone as the British would say.  The main technique I used was a calorie-counter app on my iPhone called myFitnessPal.  It’s a simple concept: you just type in every single thing you eat, every day, every meal.  It helped me immensely because I tend to “graze” all day.  I never keep track of my eating.  I just keep telling myself I can just have some more.  I slide down the slippery food slope all day.

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Earth vs Cue Ball

It is often stated that if the earth were the size of a cue ball, it would feel smoother than one.  No less a scientific giant than Neil deGrasse Tyson has referenced this “fact” in his excellent book The Pluto Files (p. 39).  But is this true?

The answer is a big NO.  This “fact” has become a scientific urban legend, passed along without being examined.  Debunking it takes us on a wild goose chase to billiard halls before finding truth in the mountains of Colorado.

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Israel in the Middle

The assumption is very often made that the long-lasting standoff between Israel and the Palestinians is intolerable for Israel, but it continues due to outside pressures.   These pressures include Palestinian refusal to agree to a reasonable two-state solution and international pressure to not take the measures required to completely destroy Hamas and other violent factions.  The fact is that the status quo is not only the best option for Israel, it is the only viable option.

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Foaming at the Mouth

So given that foaming soap is the answer to saving water and soap, as well as reducing the burden on water treatment plants, what should be done?  Should we individually use foaming soap?  I think we should go further, requiring that all liquid soap dispensers sold should be foaming soap dispensers.

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Foaming Soap Will Save the World

Well, maybe not quite.  But foaming soap uses less soap (it’s mostly air) and surprisingly, less water as well (as less soap means less rinsing needed.)  Much liquid soap is wasted as it slips off your hands and goes down the drain, or because you just squirted more than you needed.  Foaming soap gives you just enough suds and guarantees a ready-made lather.  Seems ideal, only thing is, there’s no such thing as foaming soap.

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Do We Need to Invade Switzerland?

A recent economic study found that $7.6 trillion is hidden in tax havens around the world.  That’s over $1000 for every person on the planet.  Of course, most of the people on this planet wouldn’t know the first thing about how to move their money offshore to a tax haven.  Only multinational corporations and people with tens of millions in wealth have those resources.

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Quite!

“Quite” seems a very British word.  It’s used a lot here.  Americans think of the sophisticated Englishman in the movies saying a bitingly sarcastic “quite” in response to… probably something an American said.  It’s used often in common speech as well.

As an American coming to Britain, I used the word “quite” more than I did in the US as I heard it used all around me and I wanted to fit in.  But it was only after several years in the country that I realized I was often using it wrong.

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Ukraine is Just the Beginning

Russia has now proposed an easing of tensions with the West over its ambitions for parts of Ukraine, including Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  But even as relief is in sight there, we must realize that Ukraine is only the beginning of the list of European trouble spots with connections to Russia.

The former Soviet republic of Moldova has a breakaway Russian-speaking region called Transnistria that has 1600 Russian troops stationed within its borders.  There are fears that Russia could invade Western Ukraine in order to reach Transnistria.  Or put another way, Russia could use Transnistria as an excuse to invade much more of Ukraine than simply its Russian-speaking eastern and southern parts.

If fears of Russia reaching across other territories to come to the aid of Russian speakers are to be taken seriously, then Transnistria is small potatoes.  The real problem of Europe is Kaliningrad.

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Saber Rattling in Ukraine

Crimea should be part of Russia, but not this way.  The invasion of Crimea is the perfect occasion to teach Putin a lesson in humility.

The right and International law are on our side.  In fact we have treaty obligations to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine (though you wouldn’t know it from the US media).  So it’s time to act.  But what can we do?  A lot:

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A dry sense of humour

The British tend to dry their clothes by hanging them to air dry, either indoors or out.  Americans tend to use an electric or sometimes gas tumble dryer.  A British female friend says it’s because British women aren’t as fat and therefore can wear more Lycra, which doesn’t do well in the heat of a dryer.

I myself haven’t used a “clothes line” as we call it in the USA since I was at University living in a student house.  Ever since then, I’ve had access to a dryer.  But since moving to the UK and living in three different houses, I’ve never had access to a dryer.  I’ve been re-introduced to the good fresh smell of air dried clothes, and especially the smell of outdoor-dried clothes in the summer.

Funny that in such a damp country as this, people depend on the air to dry their clothes.  But as wet a country as it is, it’s still a more a practical one.  Even the solidly middle class here don’t use dryers.  They also have cars, refrigerators, and houses that are half the size of American ones.  Yet everything is as big as it needs to be.