Friday, May 27, 2005

Russian Radiation Makes Smarter Kids?

In a recent post, Boing Boing refers to the so-called news that children who grew up in the radiation-affected areas in Chernobyl are smarter and healthier than their counterparts. As their scientific source, they quote - the tabloid newspaper The Sun! The original piece is here. (See Below for Cory Doctorow's comment on my post)

Hey, it's even in the Pravda, so it must be true! Pravda, after all, means "The Truth". Here's what it says about living close to the radioactive wreckages of strategic bombers: "Local residents collect metal scrap there, hunt for hares and pick mushrooms. Children enjoy playing on the territory behind barbed wire." Idyllic! Here's what the Pravda says about the Chernobyl children: "They have better reactions; their brain activity is more active as well." They quote one Professor Vladimir Mikhalev from Bryansk University. Sounds like Good Old CCCP propaganda - in the old days, Vlad would be on his way to receive the coveted Hero Of The Soviet Union medal, I'm sure.

This is all, of course, complete horseshit. We know that radiation damages the brain, especially the young, developing brain. Even relatively small doses of radiation (say, repeated CT scans) can cause a drop in the cognitive abilities of children, see BMJ article.

Because this happened in Russia, facts are hard to find. We know that after the Chernobyl incident, 300,000 people were relocated, and the incidence of thyroid cancer in children has increased, see Radiation Research.

PS. Looking at what's happening in Russia right now, and considering Putin's popularity, sometimes it seems the Russians are trapped in some sort of Soviet nostalgia. They are erecting statues of Stalin again, hey he only exterminated what, 50 million people, they refuse to acknowledge let alone apologize for the WWII atrocities they were guilty of (can you say Baltic countries, East Germany..). All they do is celebrate their greatness. Look at Germany - that's a nation come to grips with its past, and they've earned due respect for that.

Updated Jun-01: I got an email from Cory Doctorow, one of the editors of Boing Boing, he clarified that he did not think the above to be true, but considered it interesting from a science-fiction-writer point of view. I couldn't agree more!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Suicide Blog

This will hopefully be my last post on the subject matter (no, this is not a suicide note...)

As I mentioned in a previous post, my blog has inadvertently become something of a target for people looking for ways to kill themselves. I logged in on my website statistics page, and found out that most of my traffic came from google searches such as "how do I kill myself" and variations thereof. The phenomenon was even featured on the New Links daily linkage web site.

It's nice to have some traffic, but it makes me feel kind of creepy to think that as I write, these very entries are being read by desperate people all over the world who are determined to end their lives. It also makes me sad. So I figured I'd try and gather from my readers a collection of reasons why these people shouldn't kill themselves. The catch: I don't have that many readers, and most of them want to kill themselves anyway, so my collection hasn't exactly exploded into a treasury of reasons to cherish life.

Now I'm starting to fear that this blog is becoming so depressing that sooner or later the rest of my readers will want to kill themselves, too.

I wouldn't want to be remembered as the blogger who caused a mass suicide.

So here is my collection of reasons not to kill yourself. All three entries. Thank you mmChronic and Ian for your contributions. The first entry is by me.

Reasons Not To Kill Yourself:

Consider this: If you've reached the point where you are determined to die by your own hand, you have nothing left to lose. So I ask you to do just one thing: Talk to someone first. A friend, a neighbor, a doctor -- if you feel you don't have anyone, just call someone you've known in the past. If someone's hurt you, call them and let them know how you feel. If you're feeling guilty and dirty, confess to someone. We all have our secrets, our shortcomings. You may think you're a dirty, failed person, but in fact you're probably just average in that respect. If you're in pain, talk to a doctor. Pain can be treated. So: talk to someone. The internet is not a substitute for a living, breathing human being.

The decision to kill oneself is sometimes vindictive. A means of revenge, a malicious act, aimed at hurting others. The realization of a selfish, desperate need to have power over others. That power is fleeting: As Ian pointed out, suicide leads to nothing but a reeking corpse and oblivion. Instead of achieving the ultimate victory, you will suffer the ultimate defeat.

Finally, to expand on the pragmatic approach I took in a previous post on this blog:

We have the power to end our own lives at any given time. Therefore, if we choose not to do it now, we will always have that option later. We can take comfort in that -- no one can take that option away from us, and therefore it's not absolutely necessary to do it right now. We can always postpone it, and still keep that option. So - don't do it now, because it's final. If you're certain you've exhausted all the other options, it just might be worth waiting a little longer to see what happens. You have had happier times - life happens in cycles, and you will see better times again.


Why not? Because millions of people throughout history have died fighting to earn or defend the rights and prosperity we seemingly have thrust upon us, and which we often take for granted.

Also -- another reason not to kill yourself is because suicide is often wrongly romanticized. For instance Kurt Cobain or Hunter S. Thompson did it, and so the people who idolized them in life begin to idolize their death as well. But we have to take death for what it is -- a cold, bloody extinction that leaves a rank odor of decomposition in its wake. Try this: if you can go to the library and read about the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Killing Fields, the Rwandan Genocide, etc. and think to yourself, "Wow, that's glamorous! I would love to die like those millions of poor saps!," then, perhaps, your death wish carries some credence. But if you're like the other 99.9999% of people suffering suicidal ideation, you'll see the horror of such historical atrocities, and that deep-seated revulsion towards death will provide you the answer to whether or not killing oneself is a viable option.


Though totally frivolous the fact there's new gaming hardware like Xbox 360 and the PS3 are just around the corner shoud be enough to keep a gaming freak from suicide for a few months yet. ;)

Oh and it's spring - yay!


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Upgrading to Tiger - How To

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger upgrading instructions for idiots. (Hey, it worked for me!)

Very much off-topic here, so if you're a PC user, do skip this post and read about nasty brain injuries and such elsewhere in the blog -- but if (like me) you are hooked on your Mac, and (like me) completely dependent on it, if (like me) you have your whole life organized by iCal and (like me) make all your presentations with Keynote, you'll appreciate the gravity of this topic. And, if (like me) you don't actually know what you're doing, you'll need some really simple instructions.

Here's a how-to-upgrade-to-Tiger-and-suffer-only-minor-stress-related-brain-injury guide, courtesy of The Broken Brain

1. Spend hours and hours surfing the web in search of foolproof instructions.
2. Spend more hours wondering whether it's worth the risk.
3. Waste another couple of hours wondering if you're actually going to do it. Wasted hours, because resistance if futile. Of course you are.

Alternatively, you can skip the above mentioned steps, because I've already done all of that for you.
I have a G4 12" iBook, and a LaCie 160 GB external firewire hard drive, and I wanted an "erase and install" because that's supposedly the way to get the best results, and because the Tiger installation program will give you the option of restoring all your programs, users, settings, documents, etc from your backed-up system after the install, and after the installation and restoration, my Mac looks and feels exactly the same except that it runs Tiger now with all its new features. So this is what I did:

Before you start, you may want to check some other pages written by guys who know what they're talking about:
No such thing as clean install?
TUAW on upgrading

WARNING: Do make sure your backup works, make several, do whatever you need to do but make sure your important files are definitely backed up, bombproof like, totally securely backed up, on DVD, CD, written down, engraved in stone, whatever. Because after a clean install everything will be lost from your machine's internal hard drive. Also - I can't guarantee this works for you. I can only say it worked for me.

1. Make a backup of your system first, start by downloading Carbon Copy Cloner.
2. If you don't have a firewire external hard drive, go buy one. If you can't afford one, ask a friend over for a beer and exploit the situation by using his/her Mac as an external drive, connected by firewire. Then make a partition which is at least the size of your internal hard drive. Name that partition "Panther" for clarity.
3. Format the partition using MacOS Disk Utility (Applications->Utilities). Select the "Panther" volume, and choose "Erase". Choose the option "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)".
4. Now, select the "Panther" volume on your external hard disk, and CTRL-click it, then select "Get Info". Look at the bottom. Make sure the box called "Ignore Ownership on This Volume" is NOT CHECKED. If it is, uncheck it of course.
5. Use Disk Utility to "Repair Permissions" on your internal hard drive.
6. Safe-boot your Mac (restart and hold SHIFT key). After that's done, do a normal restart.
7. Start Carbon Copy Cloner and make a clone of your system to the external hard drive volume "Panther". Follow the Carbon Copy Cloner instructions, and make sure you check the "Make bootable" option.
8. When that's finished, boot your system from the external drive. You can achieve this by holding the "alt" key while restarting and then selecting the appropriate volume.
9. If your machine looks and feels completely normal when booted from the external drive, you have succeeded.
10. Restart normally, boot from internal drive.
11. Insert Tiger installation DVD. Choose the Erase and Install option.
12. After that's done, choose the Restore From Another Mac option. You have another Mac - that's the backup of your Panther on your external drive. Choose restore from there and let the setup program work its magic. Takes a long time so go out and look at the sunrise because "you never saw the morning 'till you stayed up all night" (Tom Waits).
13. Once it's finished, that's it! You should have a Mac that looks and feels just like your own Mac, files, programs, users, Network preferences and all, just running Mac OS X 10.4
14. Go to "about this Mac" to admire the version number. Then hit "software update" and upgrade to 10.4.1.

Good luck,

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Why Shouldn't I Just Kill Myself?

I logged in to my web site statistics counter, and was mildly shocked to learn how people have found my blog recently. Most folks find their way here via a google search, and by far the most popular search was something along the lines of "how to kill yourself". Here's a list of some searches that led people to the Broken Brain:

"best way to kill yourself" -USA
"how to kill yourself" -Britain
"suicide how not to kill yourself" -USA
"how to kill yourself with a shotgun" -USA
"ways to kill yourself" - Canada
"shotgun brain alive" -USA
"how to kill yourself with medicine" -Japan
"how to kill yourself with alcohol" -USA
"cool ways to kill yourself" -USA
"succesful ways to kill yourself" -USA

..and there are lots more. But, I mean, COOL ways to kill yourself? Hell, I guess if you're gonna go, might as well go in style, right?

On a more serious note, it's not the sort of publicity I was hoping for, but it's there, and it's relevant to the title of my blog, and I've decided to take some action. I want to make a permanent link visible near the top of this page to address the issue. I want to link it to a post which will hopefully include many good reasons NOT to kill oneself. For this, I need your help, and I ask to you contribute by leaving a comment to this post, and tell us why we should choose to keep on living. To get the thought process going, you can start by reading a related previous post called Analyze This.

So, question of the day: Why should I not kill myself?

Well, don't just sit there! Get typing!