Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Is Marijuana Healthy for You?

Posted in Crime,Health,Life,Science by Elliott Back on June 2nd, 2008.

As you know, Marijuana or Cannabis is illegal drug in the US with medical properties that have made the subject of much recent research. With over 69 million Americans over the age of 12 who have tried Marijuana, it is by far the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States.

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Did you know that:

  • Marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, including most of the harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. Smoking one marijuana cigarette deposits about four times more tar into the lungs than a filtered tobacco cigarette. (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • Risk of a heart attack is five times higher than usual in the hour after smoking marijuana. (Harvard University, Marijuana & Heart Attacks, Washington Post, 3/3/2000)
  • Reaction time for motor skills, such as driving, is reduced by 41% after smoking one joint and is reduced 63% after smoking two joints.

Still, there is substantial belief that Marijuana is harmless or that it is valuable as a therapeutic drug for cancer, AIDS, or depression. There is some evidence that a synthetic cannabinoid derived from THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) named Dronabinol, can help with Alzheimer in the elderly. The most common reason for a “legal prescription” of Marijuana (the so-called medical marijuana legal in California) is to relieve pain.

Reuters today reported on a story that will make you cringe, though. Heavy marijuana use shrinks brain talks about a study published in the American Medical Association’s journal Archives of General Psychiatry by two Australian researchers looking at men who had smoked at least five joints a day for 20 years. Brain scans indicated their hippocampus and amygdala were smaller compared to nonusers:

The hippocampus regulates memory and emotion, while the amygdala plays a critical role in fear and aggression.

“These findings challenge the widespread perception of cannabis as having limited or no harmful effects on (the) brain and behavior,” said Murat Yucel of ORYGEN Research Centre and the University of Melbourne, who led the study. “Like with most things, some people will experience greater problems associated with cannabis use than others,” Yucel said in an e-mail. “Our findings suggest that everyone is vulnerable to potential changes in the brain, some memory problems and psychiatric symptoms if they use heavily enough and for long enough.”

Among the 15 heavy marijuana users in the study, the hippocampus volume was 12 percent less and the amygdala volume was 7 percent less than in 16 men who were not marijuana users, the researchers said.

Criticism of the study centers around the fact that these men are extremely heavy users; had they been smokers or alcoholics, the effects would certainly have been more pronounced. Note that I am not a medical doctor, and this cannot constitute medical advice, but my opinion on Marijuana would be to generally avoid it. It’s clear that it’s harmless in moderation and small amounts, but over time it seems as if it can have profound effects, dumbing down your brain and numbing your nervous system. What do you think? Is there a cost, and is it worth it?

April Fool’s Day 2008 Collection

Posted in Holiday by Elliott Back on April 1st, 2008.

Last year I wrote a post detailing April Fool’s day pranks in 2007 around the web that was both funny and well received, so this year I’m going to do it again! Let’s start with the worst, political humour:

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The goons at Editorial Cartoonists sure know how to make a point

Next Blizzard Entertainment is porting World of Warcraft to the console with their new title, Molten Core:

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Yeah, it’s for the Atari 2600 console. ROCK ON!

“Blizzard got its start in console gaming, and we’ve always been excited about returning to this arena,” stated Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Additionally, we’ve wanted to reintroduce the 40-player raid dungeon experience for some time. With World of Warcraft: The Molten Core, we’re able to do both.”

Another treat from Blizzard is the Tauren Marine from Starcraft 2:

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While most tauren were satisfied with their agrarian culture and primitive existence, the Confederacy was able to lure away large numbers of young bulls for a life of adventure and violence along the galactic rim. Other tauren referred to these adventurers as ‘mad cows,’ and they were ostracized from the rest of their kine.

Finally, Blizzard gives a new Class for World of Warcraft, the Bard. Endowed with the power of music, he hits awesome riffs and combos for extra damage!

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A nice touch is the upside down “axe” as guitar

Armed with a trusty axe, killer riffs, and a ton of attitude, the guitar-wielding bard is the second hero class to be introduced in the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft. The bard excels both as a solo performer and as part of a solid group lineup, able to front in a number of roles as varied as his musical repertoire.

YouTube did the unthinkable, and Rickrolled everyone who visited one of their featured videos. So, there have been over 3,707,338 visits to Rick Astley-Never Gonna Give You Up so far today:

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Come on, even if you goatse.cx’d them it wouldn’t be that funny

Our friends at Google went nuts today, dropping literally dozens of April fools jokes. Here are the highlights. If you go to Google Documents and create a new document, you can click File, then “New Airplane:”

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This is adorable!

Additionally, there’s an “I’m feeling lucky” button on the Calendar which adds random hot dates to your schedule, archiving of pop-up and scratch and sniff books, Virgle, a manned mars station, and the ability to send GMail email in the future … or the past:

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Our researchers have concluded that allowing each person more than ten pre-dated emails per year would cause people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless.

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Adsense for real life is hilarious

Adsense for Conversations: “a new type of monetization solution that “puts the ‘context’ in contextual advertising”. Now, in just a few simple steps, you can begin displaying ads that are relevant to the topics you’re discussing — in an unobtrusive screen above your head.”

Computer nerd stuff retailer Think Geek has some skippable April Fool’s Products, including a peeing simulation for the wii, a usb pregnancy test, and caffeine cereal. Yeah, you didn’t miss anything there. On the other hand, the Pirate Bay is moving to Sinai, Egypt. Meanwhile, even the world’s largest criminal computer hackers running the Storm Worm sent out some April 1st spam:

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Yet no 0day for the lulz. Lucky us!

Not surprisingly, Anil Dash gets anal about April Fool’s day jokes, declaring “your April Fool’s Day joke sucks.” He’s right about Techcrunch’s “we’re suing Facebook” joke that just makes Michael Arrington, the founder and editor of the blog, look like a massive jerk.

Those are the big highlights, but for more, please check out Wikipedia’s April 1, 2008 entry. It’s full of more links than I could ever gather, read, or take screenshots of!

Tamara Hoover Resigns

Posted in Education,Law,Photo by Elliott Back on August 20th, 2006.

After a friend took photos of schoolteacher Tamara Hoover in the buff and posted them to Flickr, a scandal erupted in Austin, Texas. Rather than go through a formal hearing process and attempt to stay on at the school, Ms. Hoover opted to resign. According to The Statesman, district officials said:

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“The district believes strongly in an individual’s right of free expression, but as we all know, such rights are not absolute. The district and Ms. Hoover disagreed as to the propriety of explicit nude photographs of her and others in sexually suggestive poses being placed on the Internet, and its impact on students and families, and thus, on Ms. Hoover’s ability to be an appropriate role model and effective classroom teacher in AISD.”

Not all is lost–the extra publicity may help the art show based on these events, and Tamara Hoover will probably be receiving a $14,850 severance bonus. Personally, I think it’s the wrong move. Labelling her photos “sexually explicit” is probably a gross overstatement, given the artistic and casual nature of the shots. On the other hand, this is a classic example of a conflict between private life and one’s job. You can’t be two seperate people–your real identity will some day inevitably meet with your online or private identity.

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