BLOWING SMOKE: Debunking anti-smoking legislation and some great anti-smoking adverts

ANTI-SMOKING laws have now pervaded every major city in the country, making it illegal to smoke in restaurants, pubs, bars — just about everywhere where there’s a chance that others may inhale second-hand smoke.

Such laws are based on the argument that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer. There are many long-worded, perhaps confusing policies that anti-smoking advocates base this argument on, which appear to be working for them.

I’m usually put off exploring a subject the minute legal documentation presents itself, which I often find difficult to understand. I am also one to believe that it is very easy for people to hide behind vague documentation and for legal experts to put a spin on data — presenting it in a way that serves a particular agenda.

But then I watched a programme (not unlike Mythbusters) that presented all the evidence that anti-smoking advocates base their campaigns on in a very simple and easily digestible manner. So for those who are like me who want to know the truth without having to undergo the sleuth work ourselves, here are the facts behind anti-smoking laws in a nutshell (according to the programme).

The Legal Bit
In 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report which stated that second-hand smoke causes 3 000 deaths in the U.S. annually. This is the main document and media catalyst that anti-smoking advocates use to support their cause and campaigns.

In 1998 the Federal Court in the U.S. discredited the findings of the EPA — stating that there was no link between second-hand smoke and cancer. The report also stated that the EPA had deviated from any scientific procedure and had basically cherry-picked the data.

The same year the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report that was titled in such a way to suggest that second-hand smoke did cause lung cancer. However, the report went on to conclude that there was no association between cancer and second-hand smoke. In other words, it ignored its own findings.

The Statistics
The original statistics that were released regarding second hand-smoke and lung cancer are as follows: 1:80 000 Americans die annually from exposure to second hand-smoke. For those who are not exposed, the figure is 1:100 000.

These figures translate into 12,5 out of every million Americans who are exposed versus 10 out of every million people who are not. According to scientists, this difference is considered as statistically insignificant.

The EPA is equally guilty of inflating its figures, now stating that second-hand smoke kills 50 000 Americans every year (as opposed to the original 3 000). It has created a projected figure, which sounds far scarier than the original and far more likely to be paid any attention.

The Lighter Side
Just for the record, I’m all for anti-smoking laws. I’m all for a cleaner, healthier society and being considerate of one another. However, I’m sure none of us appreciate scare tactics or being lied to. On a lighter note, what we can all appreciate is clever advertising, or perhaps anti-advertising.

Disclaimer: The following advertisements are not aimed to get you or anyone to quit smoking. They are not real images, but rather graphic representations. No animals or people were harmed in the making of these adverts. These adverts will not kill you.

Now that you can take to be true.

Great anti-smoking posters
Smoke gun

Smokers hangman
Smoke nooseSmoke paste

Burning Lung
Gun shadow

Smokebello

Matchstick sperm
Cool ash skull
Smoking revolver

Cool.

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BLESSINGS: A poem by author Stephen Eardley

Blessings can be found all around us. It's so easy to take things for granted when you think that life is not going so swimmingly. Your blog’s not making any cash, your dog’s upset with you for some reason, there was no toilet paper this morning – these can all make you feel like it’s the end of the world...

But then you come across a poem like Blessings by author Stephen Eardley. This humble man reminds us that we have much to be thankful for, and offers a few world stats that allow you to put your own lifestyle into perspective…

Blessings poem by Stephen Eardley

Blessings poem by Stephen Eardley
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CODING: An Easter egg for geeks

Here’s something quite cool. Open Microsoft Word and type “= rand(200,99)” (without the pull quotes) and hit Enter. What you should get are a bejillion lines of “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Pretty sweet hey? I thought so. Just a little something special to take with you.

There is an urban myth that this is a bug with Word for Windows. A variation of this myth is that Microsoft programmers left it as an ‘Easter Egg’. Some scheme that programmers often leave code in programs, partly to amuse, partly to test, but mainly because most programmers are geeks and game players.

Yet the truth of the matter is that = rand(200,99) is simply a function included by design to demonstrate the maximum parameters of sentences and paragraphs. If you are intellectually gifted, you may have realised that the first number refers to the paragraphs, while the second number refers to the sentences.

Example: = rand (1,5)
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

You can type in any numbers between the brackets or simply type = rand() to get the same effect. = rand() is a well known random function hand for statistics and is used for simulating card games such as blackjack. My spidey senses are telling me that “rand” is somehow short for “random.”

Finally today, the reason why the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is used is because it contains every letter in the English alphabet. You might recall having to write this sentence a lot in your early school-going days during English lessons. In programming it is used to test different fonts and see how letters with tails appear.

Don’t say you didn’t learn anything today!
Happy Friday.

PS: Another Urban Myth is that Excel 1.0 had a complete version of Doom. To find it you had to go through a mind numbing sequence of keystrokes. Cynics say that Microsoft Executables are so large because they are full of this extra Easter Egg code.

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GAMING: The multi-billion dollar gaming industry

WE are currently experiencing an historical era as the gaming industry envelopes us. Doug Lowenstein – the President of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), put this perfectly in words by saying:

"Decades from now, cultural historians will look back at this time and say it is when the definition of entertainment changed forever" - Doug Lowenstein, ESA President

The gaming industry has become one of the largest contributing forces behind the growth and stability of the North American economy. Reaping in $9.5 billion (roughly R76 billion) in 2007 – according to the ESA – the gaming industry is just short of making as much money as the film industry (which made roughly $10.2 billion last year). However, computer and video game software sales have tripled since 1996, and with the rate that new games and technologies are being developed, I'm certain that the gaming industry will far exceed Box Office sales in the very near future.

Future Archaeologyfuture archaeology

Some other interesting figures produced by the ESA are that 67% of American households play video and computer games – the bulk of which believe that it has brought their families closer together. Furthermore, the majority of the statistical results show that teenagers under the age of 18 get permission from their parents before buying any of the gruesome R18 games. If such innocence is indeed truthful, then is the gaming industry all that bad?

I just wish that South Africa would develop a best-selling game that would 'wow the world'. Surely we have the capability to do so? Yet I suppose our society, which is so charged with being politically correct, would prevent us from developing say a first-person shooter game based on the Anglo-Boer War.

If only that were easier, and our software developers would cease emigrating overseas where they are more appreciated, we could overcome some of our other financial difficulties...

Related post: Too hot to handle: Future gaming & PCs

Links:
Plunkett Research Ltd.
The Entertainment Software Association
Video games don't hurt movie sales if you make good movies

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FEMALE GAMING: And the Girlz of Destruction

ALTHOUGH the gaming market tends to ignore female gamers when it comes to 'boys' games, there are female gamers, such as those belonging to "girlz Of destruction" (g.O.d.), who are beating the boys hands-down.

This gaming group is a 7-member, international all-girls PC gaming clan hailing from seven different countries (Canada, China, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the USA), who are widely regarded as the highest level professional female Quake 4 players.

g.O.d. are taking the gaming world by storm, showing that there are girls who like to slaughter mutant humanoids and cap the odd nazi just as much as any guy.

Girlz of destruction:

Gaming usually brings to mind anemic looking teenage boys hiding out in their parent’s basements for extended periods of time, while ogling busty heroines traversing the barren landscapes of World of Warcraft.

While this stereotype may have been accurate at one time, it no longer holds true, as more and more women are joining the gaming fraternity. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 38% of gamers nowadays are female, and what’s more, they spend up to 7.4 hours a week playing games.

Women’s interest in gaming is obviously growing, but we must ask ourselves then, why do marketers insist on compounding the stereotypical idea that if women do enjoy gaming then they must enjoy playing games relating to cooking, family, animals and strategic games?

One common way in which marketers often exclude the female market from popular shooting and racing games, is by representing female characters as being scantily clad, with under-developed hips and over-developed breasts, and by posting those same female forms on billboards, street lights and posters.

This kind of marketing is rather short-sighted as it ostracises a potentially huge market by not appealing to, or talking to women gamers.

Concentrated marketing to the male group, on the other hand, could stem from the fact that although more women are enjoying gaming, on the technical side it is still very much a male-dominated industry.

A survey commissioned by Sony Online Entertainment revealed that more than 60% of female students that enrolled in game design programs at The Art Institutes say they believe male dominance in the industry is a deterrent to women pursuing a career in gaming.

While many companies may be displaying a certain amount of arrogance towards the female market, it’s good to know that certain conglomerates, such as (believe it or not) Microsoft, are doing their best to encourage female gamers.

One initiative taken in this direction is evidenced by the ATI/AMD Cyber X Games: Windows XP Championships in Las Vegas, where Microsoft Windows XP are a title sponsor, and whose sponsorship has led to the creation of new categories for female gamers, such as the Windows XP Female Pro Gaming Quake 3 Competition, and the Windows XP Female Counter-Strike Team Event.

With incredible prize money as a little incentive, Microsoft is at least encouraging women in an area where they have previously been ignored.

  • rAge is South Africa’s largest interactive gaming and technology expo and is the ideal place to see female cyber athletes in action. To find out more about the South African gaming industry and trends, check out the gaming event of the year taking place in Johannesburg from the 3rd to the 5th of October at the Coca-Cola Dome in Northgate.

For more info visit: www.rageexpo.co.za

Sweden seems to be taking this whole thing rather seriously:
Girlz of Destruction get 24/7 training house in Sweden

Related posts: • All the rAge right nowGaming...an Olympic sport?

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