No smoke without ire

I smoke, and I live in Glasgow. Both these things are relevant because it looks very much like Scotland will beat the rest of the UK in the race to implement a ban on smoking in pubs, and because Glasgow council has unveiled a crackdown on smokers – not because of health, but because of littering. Apparently the big companies in the centre of town who banned smoking to save on insurance premiums are too tight-fisted to invest in outside ashtrays, so when their smoking staff hang around the front of the building, they flick their cigarette butts in the street. It’s a growing problem for the city, so they’re going to invoke anti-littering laws and charge £50 for dropping a cigarette butt. And to be fair, even the firms that *have* invested in ashtrays are finding that some staff ignore them.

I’m in the unusual position – for me at least – of not knowing what I think about these things. Oh, the smoker in me hates the idea of a ban or of being fined for flicking a butt into the gutter – after all, smoking isn’t illegal, if the demand for non-smoking pubs is so great, why aren’t there more? Market forces would mean non-smoking pubs thrived, while smoky ones went to the wall; the problem of cigarette butts doesn’t seem like a major problem when, every night of the week, I watch arseholes chucking drinks cans, takeaway wrappers, plastic bags, newspapers and god knows what else into the gardens of the flats across the road, etc etc etc – but the rational part of me thinks, okay.

Anyone who honestly believes smoking isn’t harmful is an idiot. Sure, there’s lots of junk science out there: the oft-quoted Californian EPA study into second hand smoke didn’t so much bend the stats as build a giant bullshit mountain that could block out the sun; smoking is often highlighted as the only evil in the world when places such as Hope Street are so polluted, having a smoke gives your lungs a break; there’s a tendency to shout “vested interests!” if a study is even tangentially connected to the tobacco industry, but to shout “hurrah!” when a study is funded by big pharmaceutical firms who have a vested interest in getting people on to expensive and ineffective nicotine replacement therapies; and so, depressingly, on… but smoking is really bad news. The smoking=cancer thing may well have been overstated, but there’s irrefutable evidence of the link between smoking and all kinds of diseases best described as “really bad shit”. And while the risk of second hand smoke may have been overstated, it *is* clearly a health risk. If you believe that smoking isn’t dangerous, you’re in the same camp as the people who believe that drugs make them better drivers (because of course, muscle relaxants are soooooo good for your reflexes).

It’s a constant source of debate on the internet and, like all debates, there are no grey areas. I can summarise the positions of each camp as follows: smokers believe that all anti-smokers should be shot; anti-smokers believe that all smokers should be shot. Great debate, folks!

So, who’s right? The answer is, of course, nobody. I’ll argue against the smokers first.

Smoking’s legal. It’s not up to anyone to tell me I can’t smoke.

Hmmm. Drinking’s legal, as is driving. Combine the two and it’s a pretty nasty combination. Same with smoking: personally, I don’t think it’s fair to stop people killing themselves if they so wish, but as soon as other people enter the equation then it’s no longer a personal choice. If you want to drink ten bottles of vodka, go ahead. If you want to drive a car afterwards, that’s a different thing altogether.

Non-smokers are whining nazis.

Some of them are, that’s for sure. The ones who want to ban smoking *outside* spring to mind. But smokers are a big part of the problem. Me, I don’t smoke in non-smoking areas. But I’ve spent many a train or bus journey inhaling other people’s smoke, because they’re too arrogant, ignorant or flat-out-stupid to realise that because they can’t wait 20 minutes for a smoke, they’re making non-smokers think that every smoker is an arsehole. Your lack of respect for other people fuels their lack of tolerance towards smokers.

All the statistics are bullshit. Look at the EPA study, even a judge said it was bullshit.

Since then there have been all kinds of research projects – independent, whiter than white ones – that have concluded that smoking is “really bad shit” and which didn’t take any shortcuts, which didn’t select only the data that fit their agenda, and which haven’t been shot to pieces by their peers. Sorry, folks, but the results are in and guess what? We’re screwed!

Bill Hicks was right. He said…

Yeah, he said “non-smokers die every day!” and then died of cancer, aged 32. Using him as a figurehead for smokers’ rights seems somewhat ironic. Or stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I thought his smoking stuff was funny. But he was a comedian, not a scientist.

We’re being picked on! Look at the problems caused by cars! By industrial pollution!

If I smack someone around the head, should I get off because Osama Bin Laden is much worse?

Look at non-smoking sections in pubs – they’re usually empty. Everyone’s in the smoking section.

That’s because you’re wilfully misunderstanding how things work. My wife hates smoking – really hates it – and hates the fact I smoke. However, while she doesn’t particularly like smoky pubs (that’s probably an understatement), she goes to them because *she’s married to a smoker*. When we go to a place where smoking is allowed, I smoke; my wife hates it, but she puts up with it. When we have a choice between a place where smoking is allowed and one where smoking isn’t allowed, we tend to go to the one where smoking is allowed because my wife knows how uncomfortable I get if I can’t smoke. My wife isn’t in smoky pubs because she likes them; she’s there because she doesn’t want me to be uncomfortable. It’s an important difference (and before you start thinking I’m some kind of monster, I don’t smoke in the flat – I hang out of the window, where I’ve placed an ashtray so I don’t litter – and I don’t smoke in the car). That’s why you’ll find non-smokers in the smoking sections of pubs: they’re not there because they want to be, but because they don’t want their smoking friends to get agitated and uncomfortable.

To recap, then, smoking is dumb, it’s lethal, it’s not some divine right. With me so far? Okay then! Non-smokers here I come!

Smoking costs the NHS a fortune.

Yep, an estimated £1.5 billion per year to treat smoking-related illnesses. Which is a drop in the ocean compared to the £9.5 billion generated in tax from, er, sales of tobacco products. And if you want to be cynical, just think how much extra money is saved by smokers dropping dead years before their time.

Smokers should just quit.

Christ, if only it was that easy. I’ve been hypnotised (twice), zapped with lasers, gone cold turkey, tried eating an entire pack of cigs, tried smoking three packs of cigs, chewed nicotine gum, tried patches, used an inhalator, sucked nicotine lozenges, tried herbal cigarettes and, most memorably, taken the miracle stop-smoking drug Zyban – which made me so depressed, I was seriously convinced that I was losing my mind (my Zyban experience would make a long blog entry in its own right, and may well do one day). And I’m still on the smokes. It’s not as easy as you think – if it was, the millions of people who try and fail to stop smoking every year would all be non-smokers.

Non-smokers shouldn’t have to put up with smoke.

I agree, to a point. But it can get ridiculous. Non-smoking restaurants? No problem. Non-smoking airplanes? Sure. Non-smoking airports, buildings the size of cities where a single cupboard can’t be provided for us addicts to poison ourselves out of sight, smell and earshot? Oh, come on. And some of you, to be frank, take it too far. Wanting smoking banned in the open air? Moaning that someone *ten floors below you* smokes in their flat? Having terms and conditions of employment where people can be fired for smoking, during their lunch break, when they’re not on company premises? Those are all real examples… doesn’t any of that seem a teensy-weensy bit, y’know, over the top?

Smokers ignore non-smoking signs.

The problem isn’t that they’re smokers. It’s that they’re arseholes. Throw the book at them. Make it a big, heavy book, and throw it really hard.

Cigarette butts are litter.

Yes, they are. We have litter bins for litter; why not stick a bit on top for smokes? Then by all means throw the book at people who throw their cigarettes into the street.

Smokers get smoking breaks, whereas non-smokers don’t. We have to sit and work while smokers spent 10, 15 minutes outside.

If you’ve never spent time gossiping, or checking personal email, or making personal phone calls, or staring into space, or thinking about the weekend, or wondering what your girlfriend/boyfriend is doing right now, or making coffee, or seeing if there are any good deals on, or going to chat to a colleague, then perhaps you’ve got a point. And you’re a bloody liar.

It’s awful and should be banned altogether.

That worked really well when the US banned alcohol and later, embarked on a war on drugs, didn’t it? Drug dealers are already moving into cigarette smuggling in the UK: it’s much safer than drug dealing (the penalties are laughable) and the profits are almost as high. And there’s the great big hole a ban would leave in the nation’s tax take to consider, too.

Just you wait. The Scottish Executive’s consultation exercise ends soon, and you’ll see the nation wants a smoking ban everywhere.

The consultation was self-selecting: by its very nature, it’s going to be dominated by people with strong anti-smoking opinions. Did you actually look at the document, or the web site? It takes forever to complete, and it’s dominated by comments fields rather than yes-no answers. Most people won’t bother filling it out; the ones who did will have strong opinions and too much time on their hands. Of course I was one of them ;-) I’m willing to bet that if you take the results (when they come out) and apply the percentages to the whole population, you’ll come to the conclusion that all smokers believe they should be taken out and executed.

So, both camps have dug in and can’t see the other side’s point of view (if you read political blogs, you’ll know that’s not unusual). But do I have any bright ideas for solving the problem? I’m glad you asked that :-)

Ban it. Ban smoking in pubs, clubs, restaurants, airports, whatever. It’s lethal. But when you ban it, please take into account that an awful lot of people smoke and will continue to do so, ban or no ban. So don’t try to prevent people from smoking in the open air; in places like airports, where check-in times are ridiculously early and delays can last for hours or even days, either provide a high-tech smoking area (like the ones in Glasgow airport) or let smokers go back outside for a quick smoke once they’ve been through security (make us go through security again on our return, there’s no point in being stupid here); if smoking is banned in your workplace, don’t try and extend that ban to people’s lunch breaks offsite or worse – and I’ve seen contracts including this – what people do in their own time when you’re no longer in charge of their activities. If you want people to do what suits you 24/7, up the wage rate by 300% so you’re *paying* them 24/7…

I could sum up the solution in two words: be reasonable. That applies equally to anti-smokers and to pro-smokers. If you’re a smoker, respect other people. Don’t light up in non-smoking areas, don’t campaign for some illusory right to smoke whenever and wherever you feel like it, don’t treat non-smokers with contempt. If you’re a non-smoker, accept the fact that many people smoke for whatever reason, and make the world safe for non-smokers without putting unreasonable demands on smokers (the airport example is a case in point: for a non-smoker, an eight hour delay is hellish enough; for a smoker, the same delay in a place where you cannot smoke and the rules are enforced by people with machine guns is a million times worse. By all means segregate the smokers, but forcing them to stay airside with nowhere to smoke is worse than replacing their entire record collection with Celine Dion albums).

As ever, Bill & Ted put it best: “Be excellent to each other”.

Available from all good newsagents (and some bad ones too)

I keep meaning to post about articles that have hit print, and I always forget. But not this month!

In the new issue of .net magazine I’ve written the cover feature, which is about ditching the day job to become a freelance web designer/developer. The emphasis is on the nuts and bolts of freelancing – taking the plunge, how to find work, what to watch out for and so on, and it features interviews with people who’ve been there, done that and have the overdrafts to prove it.

On a related note, creative types might be interested in Gaping Void’s How to be creative, a long essay that covers everything from selling out to writer’s block. It’s currently zooming around the blogosphere, and deservedly so: it’s very opinionated but contains lots of very good advice.

I’ve also written the cover feature for the new issue of MacFormat, which takes a look at Apple’s strategy and some of the things it could, should or shouldn’t do (and some things we really wish it would do, but know deep in our hearts that it won’t). Thanks to the vagaries of print publishing it was written before the announcement of the 4G iPod and the new iMac; we were right about the 4G iPod, but Apple clearly doesn’t agree with our case for a headless iMac. The article also looks at some of the really smart things Apple is doing in music, corporate IT, creative industries and software, and it’s designed to be good argument fuel for Apple lovers and haters alike.

Last but not least, I’ve got a big feature in the current edition of PC Plus that takes a look at the world of counterfeiting – especially chips, mobile phone equipment and computer consumables. The article rubbishes some of the more ridiculous claims of the anti-counterfeit lobby, but also highlights some of the things you might want to think about before shelling out on counterfeit goods. It may not be funding Osama Bin Laden, but counterfeiting is anything but a victimless crime.

And of course, all three magazines are also packed with the usual fine writing and general magazine goodness you’d expect :-)

The Sun’s site’s future isn’t bright

Media guardian [free registration required] reports that The Sun is going to scale back its web site in an attempt to reverse a serious sales decline. According to a survey commissioned by the paper, it’s losing some 90,000 sales per day as people read the paper online instead of buying it.

This is where commercial reality meets the “everything must be free and on the net” ideal: reading papers for free online is great for net users and can certainly boost the international profile of publications, but if the ad revenues don’t make up for the loss of sales then the publishers are committing commercial suicide.

If my experience is anything to go buy, online newspapers do mean lost sales. I read the Herald, the Evening Times and the Guardian online, together with various other UK and US papers’ online editions, and on a Sunday I’m more likely to read the Sunday Herald, Sunday Times and Observer online than wander down to the newsagent to get the printed versions. It’s the same with magazines: I stopped buying Wired magazine because it’s a hassle to find in local shops, and because its articles all appear online within a few days of publication; I still buy various film, music and general interest magazines, but without fail they’re the magazines that don’t put all their content online for free.

In the long term technology will solve the problem: electronic paper exists and seems to be good enough to replace printed media, and we’re only a few years away from being able to subscribe to electronic versions of newspapers and magazines that are identical to their printed counterparts and that don’t require a full-blown computer to view them. However, it’ll be several years before such technology is affordable, and it’s entirely possible that consumers will decide that they’re not interested in e-paper at all.

In the shorter term you can expect more titles to do what the Sun is going to do, or what the Telegraph and Daily Mail already do (putting premium content – columnists, features etc – in a paid subscription section). There will no doubt be exceptions such as The Guardian who will continue to offer content for free, but if publishers are given the choice of embracing the internet or staying in business, they’ll choose survival every time.

Attention deficit is – ooh look! Kittens!

There’s an interesting discussion on about attention deficit disorder, with a typically witty headline:

Adults being diagnosed with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperact… Chee-tos — I could definitely go for some Chee-tos right now. But they’ll turn my fingers orange. I wonder how the Dolphins are doing. I think I’ll go read fark for a while

The discussion stems from a CBS news story that suggests 8 million US adults have ADHD, although to date the focus has been on children with the condition. The US DSM-IV medical manual lists these as the most common symptoms in children:

often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes; often has difficulty sustaining attention to tasks; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often fails to follow instructions carefully and completely; losing or forgetting important things; feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming; running or climbing excessively; often talks excessively; often blurts out answers before hearing the whole question; often has difficulty awaiting turn.

That sounds awfully like me. In primary school I was occasionally locked in cupboards (true!) because of my incessant and irrelevant chattering, and I’d always get into trouble for tuning out at the slightest distraction. It’s something I still have today: if I don’t write things down I forget them (and even then, I still forget to do things – when I go shopping, I always end up missing something from the list); in conversation, I zoom off on wild tangents or forget what I’m talking about halfway through sentences; I have a mind like a sieve (it’s a constant source of amusement to my friends that if I go to the bar to get drinks in, I’ll have forgotten the order by the time I get there); and I can’t concentrate on one thing for very long – so right now I’m zooming between a blogger window, six news sites, a few blogs, email, a magazine article I’m writing, a magazine article I’m reading, some software downloads, text messages on my phone and so on. In the living room I’ve got six magazines and three novels open; when I use the net I often open a new browser window to go to a site and then wonder what site I was planning to visit. I’ve always used the phrase “magpie mind” to describe the sort of person I am: a glimpse of something shiny and my mind wanders off immediately.

That sort of mindset is great for my job: magazine articles tend to be “bitty”, so in addition to the main article you have lots of sidebars, boxouts and tangents. And because deadlines tend to come in chunks, I usually work on three or four different jobs at once (so for example in the last few days I’ve been reviewing software, writing two magazine features, collating stories for a news thing, arranging interviews for forthcoming features, tracking down software for next month, chasing payments for published stuff, and so on). That suits me fine, because I’m never on one thing for too long (even the really, really big jobs are split up into little, independent sections); it’s also why I was a dead loss when I had a day job, because I found it almost impossible to focus on really, really important things for long.

I’d imagine that if I were of school age in America right now, I’d probably be diagnosed as ADHD, or perhaps ADD; that means I’d probably be prescribed Ritalin or something similar. However, this university study suggests that it’s not a disorder; rather, it’s a sign of creativity. The study notes:

the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people’s brains might shut out this same information through a process called “latent inhibition” – defined as an animal’s unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

“This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment,” says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. “The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities.”

…those classified as eminent creative achievers – participants under age 21 who reported unusually high scores in a single area of creative achievement – were seven times more likely to have low latent inhibition scores.

The authors hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory – the capacity to think about many things at once – but negative otherwise. Peterson states: “If you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to be able to discriminate or you’ll get swamped.”

It’s the “getting swamped” bit that’s controversial: in the Fark discussion, many people talk about their own experiences of ADD/ADHD and say that Ritalin (or self-medication with various things) helped tune out the distractions and enable them to focus on important things such as schoolwork or their job. As the Attention Deficit Disorder Association says:

Medication corrects their underlying chemical imbalance, giving them a fair chance of facing the challenges of growing up to become productive citizens.

Not everyone agrees.

Matthew Smith died aged 14 as a result of Ritalin side-effects, and his father has put together a site that warns other parents about ADHD treatment. He says:

Dr. Dorsey officially diagnosed Matthew with ADHD. The test used for the diagnosis was a five minute pencil twirling trick, resulting in me being handed a prescription for Methylphenidate/Ritalin.

He continues:

At no time were my wife and I ever told significant facts regarding the issue of ADHD and the drugs used to “treat it”. These significant facts withheld from us inevitably would have changed the road that we were headed down by ultimately altering the decisions we would have made.

We were not told that The Drug Enforcement Administration had classified Methylphenidate (Ritalin) as a Schedule II drug, comparable to Cocaine.

We were not told that Methylphenidate is also one of the top ten abused prescription drugs.

At no time were we informed of the unscientific nature of the disorder.

We were not told that there was widespread controversy among the medical establishment in regards to the validity of the disorder.

Furthermore, we were not provided with information involving the dangers of using Methylphenidate (Ritalin) as “treatment” for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. One of these dangers includes the fact that Methylphenidate causes constriction of veins and arteries, causing the heart to work overtime and inevitably leading to damage to the organ itself.

We were not made aware of the large number of children’s deaths, that have been linked with these types of drugs used as “treatment”.

Matthew died from heart damage, which the coroner attributed to long-term use of Ritalin.

There’s no doubt that for some people, Ritalin works; however, there’s a real concern that educators are a little too keen to say “your kid’s got ADHD” and for doctors to prescribe Ritalin. As the bereaved parent puts it:

Did you know that schools receive additional money from state and federal government for every child labeled and drugged? This clearly demonstrates a possible “financial incentive” for schools to label and drug children. It also backs up the alarming rise/increase in the labeling and drugging that has taken place in the last decade within our schools.

Did you know that parents receiving welfare money from the government can get additional funds for every child that they have labeled and drugged? In this way, many lower socio-economic parents (many times single mothers) are reeled into the drugging by these financial incentives waved in front of them in hard times, making lifestyle changes possible.

It’s certainly a controversial issue, and it’s a relatively recent one. As Spiked Online notes:

Ritalin has been available for 40 years, but again, its use for the treatment of ADHD only took off in the mid-1990s. In some states in the USA, between three and five percent of primary school children have been diagnosed with ADHD; estimates of the number of American children on Ritalin vary between 1.7 million and 2.5 million. According to NICE [the National Institute of Clinical Excellence], an estimated 366 000 children between six and 16 in England and Wales (around five percent of all schoolchildren) meet the diagnostic criteria for some form of ADHD. A core group of more than 73 000 (one percent) are believed to have severe ‘combined type’ ADHD, with all three features [inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity]: this is the group for which it recommends treatment with Ritalin.

The article continues:

Advocates of ADHD, who consider that it is ‘underdiagnosed and undertreated’ in Britain, have welcomed the NICE report as a vindication of their campaign for greater recognition of this disorder (5). They believe that ADHD is a ‘genetic, neurological’ condition and that evidence of brain dysfunction has been found in various cerebral imaging studies. These claims regarding ADHD – which have been made about a wide range of conditions from schizophrenia and manic depressive psychosis to alcoholism and homosexuality – remain controversial.

…the key problem underlying the ADHD controversy is the trend for defining a wider and wider range of experience and behaviour in psychiatric terms, ‘turning a problem into a disease’. The tendency to medicalise social problems is encouraged by the availability of treatments – either tablets or talking cures – which offer a ready solution to difficulties experienced by individuals, families and communities.

In his paper Becoming Neurochemical Selves[PDF link], Nikolas Rose writes:

alliances are formed between drug companies anxious to market a product for a particular condition, biosocial groups organised by and for those who suffer from a condition thought to be of that type, and doctors eager to diagnose under-diagnosed problems (Moynihan, Heath and Henry, 2002; Moynihan, 2003). Disease awareness campaigns, directly or indirectly funded by the pharmaceutical company who have the patent for the treatment, point to the misery cause by the apparent symptoms of this undiagnosed or untreated condition, and interpret available data so as to maximise beliefs about prevalence. They aim to draw the attention of lay persons and medical practitioners to the existence of the disease and the availability of treatment, shaping their fears and anxieties into a clinical form. These often involve the use of public relations firms to place stories in the media, providing victims who will tell their stories and supplying experts who will explain them in terms of the new disorder. Amongst the examples given by Moynihan et al including baldness and Propecia, erectile dysfunction and Viagra, irritable bowel syndrome and Lotronex, and Pfizer’s promotion of the new disease entity of “female sexual dysfunction” is the promotion by Roche of its antidepressant Auroxix (moclobemide) for the treatment of social phobia in Australia in 1997. This involved the use of the public relations company to place stories in the press, an alliance with a patients group called the Obsessive Compulsive and Anxiety Disorders Federation of Victoria, funding a large conference on social phobia, and promoting maximal estimates of prevalence. These are not covert tactics, as a quick glance at the Practical Guides published on the Web by the magazine Pharmaceutical Marketing will show.

As Rose notes: “One of the criticisms of the private madhouses before the spread of public asylums was that they were generating what was termed ‘a trade in lunacy’ in which profit was to be made by incarceration leading to all manner of corruption”. It could be argued that we’re heading for a modern-day equivalent, fuelled by the endless appetite for health stories in newspapers and magazines (very few of which are written by people who have any particular knowledge of health, let alone science) that promise pills to cure all our ills. As Rose points out:

The most widely prescribed of the new generation of psychiatric drugs treat conditions whose borders are fuzzy, whose coherence and very existence as illness or disorders are matters of dispute, and which are not so much intended to cure a specific transformation from a normal to a pathological state as to modify the ways in which vicissitudes in the life of the recipient are experienced, lived and understood.

I was going to add something else, but I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.

Backups and utter bollocks

Writing in PC Zone, Stuart Campbell makes an interesting point:

According to Section 50(A) of the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, legal purchasers of computer games are explicitly permitted to make a backup copy of their purchase.

Yet ELSPA, the industry body for the games industry, ties itself in knots trying to get round that:

Am I legally entitled to make a backup of my original software?
The rules regarding back up copies apply to software; they do not apply to other copyrights such as film and sound recordings. Since computer games comprise of a number of such rights, the answer so far as computer games is concerned is that making a back up copy is not a permitted act under copyright law.

And thanks to our wonderful new copyright laws that make it illegal to bypass copy protection, Stuart points out that:

if you exercise your legally-enshrined right to make a backup of your legally-purchased game, you are automatically and necessarily breaking the law, with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. Hmm. Bit of a mixed message being sent out there, don’t you think?

Stuart’s been a busy chap. On a related note, he points out that the current “Pirate DVDs fund Osama Bin Laden!” campaign is complete and utter bollocks. He makes a good point about the laws being used to crack down on legit purchasers rather than criminals, and if I wasn’t currently trapped underneath a giant scary deadline I’d throw my own comments in here. I’ll come back to this, I’m sure.

[Via NTK]

Impenetrable plastic pouches of death

Looks like my experience with the packaging of an M3 Power razor wasn’t unique: as Something Awful points out, such packaging is part of a trend.

Every single vaguely electronic device these days, from removable memory cards to battery-powered cereal spoons, ships in those handy-dandy impenetrable plastic pouches of death created by Lucifer himself in an attempt to raise the national suicide rate by about 10 percentage points. The corporate business world, serving up more evidence that the hottest consumer trend is “manufacturing products that nobody anywhere wants to actually purchase,” has decided the most effective way to prevent people from stealing their 38-cent Korean memory cards is by encasing them in 80 pounds of a titanium-plastic hybrid which can withstand point blank shotgun blasts and most meteorite impacts.

[Note: Something Awful is rarely safe for work]

The problem with digital music, in four screengrabs

1: Official REM web site announces worldwide digital release of new single:

2: iTunes US has it, but as a UK user I can’t buy it.

3: iTunes UK doesn’t have it. Here’s the full search results.

4: Is it on Kazaa? Of course it is.

Update, 11 Sept
The REM track has finally reached iTunes UK. Better late than never.