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Firefox without plugins? You’re doing it wrong (updated 26 May 2009)

A particular passion of mine, that I have rather neglected since my first post, is the advocacy of open source software where possible, particularly for non-specialist work-related tasks, such as web browsing and word processing. For my PhD, I write all my documents using OpenOffice (and occasionally LaTeX), and save them using open formats. Of course, I don’t stubbornly neglect proprietary formats completely, mainly due to necessity. For example, to give a slide presentation, I may need to export my slideshow to a Microsoft Powerpoint or Adobe PDF, unless I’m fortunate enough to be able to plug my own laptop into the projector system (which can be a rather cumbersome process) or the host’s computer has OpenOffice installed on it.

EDIT – This article has been updated (26 May 2009).

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Duchy originals herbal tinctures. Own goal.

Being a passive supporter of the British monarchy (let me clarify: in principle I’m not particularly in favour of the system but in the UK at least it appears to work well and I find the current situation much more preferable than some of the alternatives) I allow myself a little grin when Prince Charles does something good, like raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting the arts in underprivileged communities. In fact, I’ve even been on the receiving end: a couple of years ago, my band received a grant to support the recording and release of our first album.

However, the Prince’s stance on “integrated” (aka complementary or alternative) healthcare is a particularly nasty case of foot-in-mouth disease which leaves me banging my head on the wall in frustration. The sale of herbal tinctures on the Duchy Originals website and in several retail stores is an example of such a clanger-drop moment. The story has been covered in the media, and blogged here (in a blog that is somewhat less sympathetic to the Prince than my own).

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Laetrile will relieve you of your money, not your cancer

In this post, I will be discussing the misguided notion that laetrile (aka amygdalin or, misleadingly, “vitamin B17”) acts as an effective therapy against cancer, with particular attention to the website “World Without Cancer“. This is not because it’s been in the news recently, but because of this site’s “Google positioning”, so to speak: googling “nontoxic.org.uk” brings up the World Without Cancer website as one of the top results. Hence, I see it as something of a duty to use this position wisely, and to demonstrate why some of the wild (yet at first glance convincing) claims made on the site are unjustified. It is also the first post on this blog in which I attempt to address the thorny issue of religion, where I feel my opinions are very different to a large proportion of the pseudoscience-debunking blogging community.

First of all, however, the World Without Cancer site.

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