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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

November 2012

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Friday 30th November 2012

I really like Twitter. It has taken me quite a long time to come to that realisation. I started using Twitter when I started writing this blog, nearly eighteen months ago. I decided it might be a way of promoting this site and I wasn’t too interested in what else Twitter had to offer.

Prior to that, I had been one of those people who condemn things without knowing anything about them. While pleading ‘guilty’ to the charge of blind prejudice I want to put forward, in mitigation, that my knowledge of Twitter was mostly based on the media’s characterisation of it as a place for celebrities to tell the world what they had for breakfast...more

Wednesday 28th November 2012

The original planting list for the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden contained some plants where the poisonous nature was rather obscure and some that had been included because of their use as antidotes. Because these plants led some people to be a bit sneery about the garden, there was a re-planting in 2006 with the intention of focussing on well-established poison plants.

There was also a problem with some plants that weren’t suited to the outdoor life in north-east England. One tree that fell into both those problem areas was Citrus aurantium, the orange. It had to be kept indoors for eight months of the year and its justification for being in the garden was the rather weak fact that some people get contact dermatitis from citrus oil...more

Sunday 25th November 2012

My daily ritual includes having a look at the visitor statistics for this site. As well as seeing if anyone has linked to the site, often when posting on a discussion forum, I can see if someone has linked directly to one of my images. It can also provide an indication if some malign individual is trying to misuse the site for criminal purposes.

On occasion, it also reveals a sudden interest in a particular plant. As I have my Google Alerts to tell me of any online activity, a bump in searches for a particular plant usually means it has been mentioned on TV or the radio...more

Thursday 15th November 2012

One reason I ceased making this a daily task was that I recognised the danger of repeating myself or, worse, contradicting myself. Not having the need to write something means I don’t have to go after every ill-informed ‘Top 10’ of poisonous plants nor do I need to respond every time someone like Peter Hitchens says something stupid about cannabis.

But, just occasionally, I come across something that disappoints; that is a piece from an organisation that one would be justified in assuming would be well informed. Today, that happened when I read the transcript of a podcast from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RCS). It is from a series entitled ‘Chemistry in its element: compounds’ and features ricin the poisonous component of Ricinus communis, castor oil plant...more

Monday 12th November 2012

My Google Alert for Catha edulis, khat, directed me to a profile of Baroness Warsi on the Mail Online website. Baroness Warsi was the first female Muslim to serve in the Cabinet, though her current position, as Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities, is outside the cabinet. She is, however, one of a number of ministers who attends cabinet meetings.

Because this is a Mail profile, most of the text is concerned with probing any problems she has had with being both Muslim and female and trying to get her to say something controversial about multiculturalism. Those are not topics within my area of interest so I will focus on the three short paragraphs on the subject of drugs...more

Sunday 11th November 2012

I’ve been trying to keep up to date with all the reporting following last Tuesday’s election results from the USA. I don’t mean the main one, though the re-election of Obama could be of the greatest significance. I’m referring to the votes in Colorado and Washington state to allow recreational use of Cannabis sativa, marijuana.

I can’t claim to be an expert on the American system of government and a lot of the news items I’ve seen assume a greater knowledge than I possess so I’m not going to attempt to interpret the situation overall..more

Thursday 1st November 2012

I realise it would be unfair to complain that a BBC journalist did not have time to fully explore the claims being made by contributors to a story that was reported in one of the local news sections of the BBC website but did not feature in the 30-minute evening TV news for the region. Cost pressures mean that stories have to be produced in the shortest possible time and there is not the luxury to spend even half an hour or so collecting the information to round out a story.

Rather than be unfair in this way, I thought I would invest the half hour required and explore some of the information given in a story about a demonstration in London calling for a ban on Catha edulis, khat..more

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