April 2004 Archives

Outback Jack

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Twelve beautiful American princesses compete for the love of one Aussie larrikan in this new reality TV show that airs in the US on June 22 2004. The twist is that the bloke is claiming to be a triathlete, trail bike racer, whitewater rafter and skydiver who has earned awards in swimming, judo, karate, grappling, football and horseback riding . Oh and he climbs mountains, too. No mention of fighting crocodiles, but I'm sure it just hasn't come up yet. The women will have to endure adventures in Outback Australia to win his heart. Steve Irwin, the real "Crocodile Dundee" is already married, so they had to get this "Vadim Dale" character . Some of his mountain climbing is reported at Millenium Expedition Here's a picture of him from Crazy 4RealityTV Magazine :

Ciguatera from bread!

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I wanted to find out about the risk of Ciguatera poisoning from skipjack tuna oil used to supplement Omega-3 DHA bread and other flour products, so I contacted George Weston Foods. George Weston Foods are one of Australia's largest food manufacturers, responsible for popular brands in bread and baked goods, dairy, meat, cereals and animal feed. They are wholly owned by Associated British Foods, who operate in New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Thailand. I was assured "Fish effected by Ciguatera Poisoning are usually fish that feed in warm ocean waters such as a reef. The tuna used in our product is caught using large fishing trawlers in the deep ocean and therefore poses a minimal risk of carrying the toxin." However, their tuna suppliers test for Ciguatera every three months. I figure this is to account for the fact that fish swim. Predatory fish swim over large distances. Testing once every three months obviously isn't safe enough, or I wouldn't have been poisoned. Ciguatera is very under-reported, in fact it took 18 months for me to be diagnosed. Many other people may be affected and not know what hit them. What are the regulations for testing? I'm waiting on a reply from Food Standards Australia to find out whether there are any regulations for Ciguatera toxin testing in place.

Cigatera update

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I wanted to find out about the risk of Ciguatera poisoning from skipjack tuna oil used to supplement Omega-3 DHA bread and other flour products, so I contacted George Weston Foods. George Weston Foods are one of Australia's largest food manufacturers, responsible for popular brands in bread and baked goods, dairy, meat, cereals and animal feed. They are wholly owned by Associated British Foods, who operate in New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Thailand. I was assured "Fish effected by Ciguatera Poisoning are usually fish that feed in warm ocean waters such as a reef. The tuna used in our product is caught using large fishing trawlers in the deep ocean and therefore poses a minimal risk of carrying the toxin." However, their tuna suppliers test for Ciguatera every three months. I figure this is to account for the fact that fish swim. Predatory fish swim over large distances. Testing once every three months obviously isn't safe enough, or I wouldn't have been poisoned. Ciguatera is very under-reported, in fact it took 18 months for me to be diagnosed. Many other people may be affected and not know what hit them. What are the regulations for testing? I'm waiting on a reply from Food Standards Australia to find out whether there are any regulations for Ciguatera toxin testing in place.

Centrelink Mathematics

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In late 1998, I was accepted for the Disability Support Pension by Centrelink because of Epstein-Barr Virus on top of Myalgic Encephalomyalitis on top of a permanent back injury. In July 1999, due to a massive Centrelink mistake, my pension payments were cut off altogether. In December 2002, Centrelink admitted the mistake and restored my payments. In October 2003, I was paid arrears for the four years of no payments. Due to a massive Centrelink mistake, the calculations were made with the wrong assumption that I pay zero rent. The insulting consequence of this was to zero out the previous four years entitlements of rent assistance: assuming rent assistance > $10 per fortnight on average, 1999 to 2002 = 4 x 26 fortnights x rent assistance = 104 x rent assistance = some multiple of $1000, The injury was that zero rent assistance also meant I had to PAY BACK the rent assistance I had already been paid in 2003 and would be paid until the end of that year. I was forced to pay a debt of $2350 to Centrelink. one year of rent assistance = 26 fortnights x $90 = $2350 I contacted them in writing, by phone, in person, and with the assistance of the offices of Welfare Rights Australia, The Minister for Family and Community Services, and the Federal Ombudsman. A re-calculation was requested, and I was told the numbers came out the same way when they corrected for my rent assistance to be above zero. rent assistance > 0 5 x 26 fortnights x rent assistance = 0 !!???? I explained to Centrelink that this was arithmetically impossible unless the rent was still counted as zero. They laughed at me. I appealed, did the rounds of assistance from the Offices of Welfare Rights Australia, Centrelink Customer Relations, and the Federal Ombudsman, and nothing happened for six months. I appealed to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, who passed it back to Centrelink, who passed it back to the same data entry guy who was repsonsible for the previous mistakes. I received a phone call in April 2004, that the new recalculations of the mistaken rent assistance are in, and now that they are taking into consideration that I have been entitled to maximum rent assistance from 1999 up to the present day, the repayment to me is calculated to be almost $1700. I can't wait to see how they managed to work this one out, and tell me what happened to the rest of 2003's rent assistance, and all of the previous four years of non-payments!

Ciguatera Zombie Poison

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In Haiti, Voudon sorcerers mix up Zombie making powder that works largely because of two nerve poisons found in the puffer fish used in the recipie. Ciguatoxin, which blocks the calcium electrochemical channels in nerve cells, and tetradotoxin which blocks the sodium channels.

Ciguatoxin is a water and fat soluble protein that isn't restricted to puffer fish, its also made by dinoflagellate protozoa - micro-organisms that attach themselves to algae that grow on dead, damaged or dying pacfic coral reefs. Small fish eat the toxin-salted algae, and are eaten by larger and larger predator fish. The poison is concentrated in each step up the food chain. By the time you get to big fish like the skipjack tuna used in fish oil supplements, or barramundi, coral trout, sea perch, mullet, cod, red snapper, and mackeral, (to name a few) that you may choose for your dinner table; there's enough poison not to make you a zombie, but to make you suddenly and dramatically ill.

I should know, it happened to me just over a year ago.

Nobody returns from Narrabri

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I graduated from my Applied Physics degree with Computing Science sub-major, and applied for a job as a scientific programmer with the Ionospheric Prediction Service in Chatswood.

I knew about the 11 year sunspot cyle, so they hired me as a solar astronomer instead, as a replacement for the incumbent astronomer who was tired of the simple life in the outback. I gave up on my patent office job interview, and accepted the post. I had two weeks to move there from Sydney.

They observe the sun from the Culgoora Observatory outside of Narrabri, and make predictions about what the sunspots will do, and how they will effect the ionosphere and its ability to reflect radio waves back to Earth, and hard radiation that will be experienced by satellites and astronauts during solar storms.
astroian<In exile at the Culgoora Solar Observatory in driest Outback Australia
during my short sojourn as an astronomer. Narrabri - you'll never leave

Narrabri is an interesting town to move to for a city boy. One main street, with seven pubs and two drive through bottle shops, and one RSL club. Two video hire libraries, no theatres or other eentertainment. No public transport, just a plane trip to Sydney or Tamworth. I couldn't afford a car.

I worked in Narrabri for nine months. I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) by Professor Denis Wakefield there, and then months later, my back was permanently injured while following instructions from the supervisor at the IPS Culgoora Solar Observatory. Heavy lifting isn't usually in the job description of an astronomer.

I made this observation of a solar storm on the new Spectrograph:

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