Vitamin B12: Look Ma, no needles!

If I could hand out trophies to anthropomorphic representations of vitamins, D3 would be getting gold (with K2 holding onto its back) and B12 would be taking a strong silver.

B12 is a supplement I’ve been taking for a couple of years now to correct a deficiency (2yrs ago: 140 pg/mL, ‘normal’ = 200-900), although there was a disputation by another doctor who didn’t believe my original level was low enough to require treatment.
I had been offered seasonal intramuscular injections – like my mother, whom I likely inherited this problem from – but being a Google fiend I wanted to learn a bit more and came to understand that, while I was deficient (the second doctor who viewed my original result thought my common value meant I didn’t have a problem), it wasn’t necessary to have a sore arm four times a year at the GP.

High strength B12 tablets are absolutely adequate to correct a deficiency. Not because standard dose tablets are inadequate in themselves, but because if you lack the cells which absorb B12 at normal amounts (a likely case in my scenario given that a lot of food I eat has ample amounts) you need at least a thousand units daily since 1% of a given dose is absorbed by an alternative pathway [the reference for this is not open access but referred to on many articles]. The smaller the dose, the less units get fed to that pathway.

Since declining the injections and taking 1250 IU per day my level reached an optimal level (589 pg/mL). But I did not experience any visible benefits since I hadn’t been suffering from the obvious effects of B12 deficiency. A B12 deficiency, like a D3 one, is often insidious, so this is more of an investment from problems like Alzheimer’s disease. I was, however, perniciously anaemic on account of fairly large, immature red blood cells and these normalised when my B12 level did. I was hoping B12 would also reverse some minor premature greying, but it hasn’t.

My B12 deficiency came to light only 3 years ago, my mother was diagnosed as deficient about a decade prior. She had been given tablets to start with – the ordinary low dose – and upon their obvious failure had to succumb to the jab; a very unfortunate event as my mum hates needles more than most people, even though she is qualified in being able to give others intramuscular injections. The injections did their job but, perhaps due to sensitivity issues at such a large dose in one go, she would feel pretty dizzy for a few days after. Being underweight also meant that needle entry at any point was quite painful.

Knowing that my mother would prefer tablets I asked her to tell her hospital doctor on her second-last yearly appointment that she would like to give the tablets another final go. Amused, the doctor thankfully let her and gave her a prescription of ordinary – low dose – tablets again. High dose isn’t available on the NHS and I don’t think she would’ve got her way if she said she was going to get her own.
But get her own she did, and six weeks ago she had her last appointment. She didn’t get her B12 result because they said they would only write if there was a problem, so while I don’t know her exact level, she wasn’t forced to see her local nurse; the tablets sustained (or exceeded) the level of the 1000 mcg jabs. As far as they know, she’s taking what they prescribed, which I’m sure would have seen the return of the needle. My mother had a very evident problem with anaemia and they do not drop the ball in her treatment.

I have seen recently in the press that Simon Cowell likes to have B12 IVd into him, but this is just ridiculous. High dose tablets and sprays means treating B12 deficiency is convenient nowadays. I do, however, believe that a lot of people are probably vitamin B12 deficient (not to extent of the vitamin D deficiency pandemic though), so it’s worth getting a test, and in this case, being disobedient to the ancient UK treatment guidelines. Our Atlantic friends already treat B12 deficiency often through high dose tablets. It’ll either give you more energy or save you from a host of other problems.

B12 is easy to find in high doses in most local online outlets. I and my mother take 5000 IU in recommended methylcobalamin form every four days. The tablets are often cherry flavoured and easily dissolve under the tongue.


A few months ago I heard about a service called Unbound which works slightly differently to a traditional publishing house. Instead of them deciding whether a book goes to print, the potential audience does by waving some money. This is a genius idea as demand comes before supply: readers choose the books they want, and publishers avoid stocking duds.
This post is not about Unbound themselves, but rather the template for their model and how this could be tweaked in other ways.

Kickstarter in the US was the first project of this type and it doesn’t limit itself to books. Neither do you have to pledge a set fee of £10 or more; you can give as little as $1. That single figure interests me a lot.


I’m throwing the following idea in the air as I wouldn’t know how to go about implementing it, nor do I have the funds. But I would like to see if, possibly, anybody could do something with this: a funding site that asks you to only donate £1 or equivalent in another currency.
The reason why I think this is attractive is because if you say to people “fund my project for only £1” a lot of people might be willing to do that, in the same way one might spare some change for a really good busker. Now, one person donating one pound won’t circulate much blood into a project, but £1000 may help; for example, to fund a small, online advertising campaign. You would achieve this by requiring 1000 people to donate £1 and only getting access to those funds if exactly 1000 people, and no less, do think you deserve a penny – or actually a pound – for your thoughts. £1000 is not enough for other purposes, so you might need 10,000 people to back you. If your project requires £10,000 pounds you almost surely want enough people to be interested. Perhaps the max. limit you could set before a target gets difficult to achieve is 50,000-100,000 people.

The whole idea is about getting more people to give less than less people to give more. If a project is worthy enough it will either make you as much or more than you could expect from a site that has a high-bottom donation amount or no max. amount since most people on those hope others will be more generous. Of course, the said site needs to have presence. It needs to be the eBay of funding companies.

This idea could probably work with charities too. A number of them here ask you to text a number to have £5 deducted from your mobile account, but why not just ask for £1 instead? Lots of people wouldn’t think much of it. £1 is easy for people to part with, £5 not always so, even if for a really good cause.

Of course, even though you’re pledging a one-figure amount, you would like some kind of proof that the money is being put to use as promised, and this can be achieved by holding the recipient to account; them providing tangible proof, in some way, that they’re not just bagging easy money. In some cases, a recipient could be provided the services required directly (e.g. manufacturing), or a trusted middleman (Escrow-like) can monitor the use of funds.

Additionally, if the funding recipient is going to roll out a product, they could provide extras such as a discount to people who funded them; a reward.

I’m not actively fishing for comments here, but feel free to add them (or direct me to a philanthropist and some really good techies!). Any flaws in this napkin-plan?

Zombies of death

Unless you’ve been avoiding the news you can’t have failed to notice that an infection is plaguing my home and neighbouring cities. Blackberry phones in the hands of people who can’t resist seeing cracked glass and soaring fires acted as a mode of transmission; the original contagion was a report that police had shot a man who did not threaten to use a gun he carried. Ironically, family of said man do not condone the zombies on the streets.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen any devastation first hand, but what I’ve witnessed on the media has astounded me. Much of the carnage is only a considerable walk or short bus/tube ride away, and it’s not infeasible that I’ll hear sirens away from the television tonight.

I’d like to echo most peoples thoughts on this: I have no sympathy whatsoever for the looters. I don’t know what their motives are, and I frankly don’t care. I just don’t see how putting peoples lives at risk and ruining businesses solves anything. If a possible trigger is economic woe, this is an even more stupid thing to be doing. While I’m willing to admit that at least some perpetrators are victims of social deprivation, the life of those on the bottom rung is not comparable to those who rose up for the Arab Spring, for example. When you see pictures of people grinning beside the booty they’ve amassed, it’s hard to think of anything but greed. Strength in numbers has allowed all the cockroaches to come out at once. There are positive, more productive, ways of dealing with a set of low numbered cards life gives.

I hope the police act similarly to the way they unfairly treated many student protesters earlier this year because what we’ve witnessed over the last few days absolutely requires police to behave brutish. If they don’t act now – but I’m sure they will – the broomsticks people brought out to help clean the debris on streets won’t be used at the brush end over the coming days.
On the positive side, it was delightful to see people coming out to help rub antiseptic cream on the wounded city. Seeing those people, from all walks of life, reminds me that London is great, and so are its citizens. The majority of them.

Going to back worry, I’m fearful about how the annual Notting Hill Carnival might play out in a few weeks, not to mention the Olympic games here next year. Is there something that can be done that can prevent scenes like we’ve seen? If we see, as with the students, that there are many rioters from a well-off background, it’s hard to blame anything but a lack of IQ, ambition and some sort of desire to be seen as a rebel. Even if most are from deprived communities, I still cannot support reckless destruction, but it might show that something needs addressing.

I really hope that all this mayhem ends soon and that it doesn’t spiral into something more volatile.

Optical illusion

Netbooks don’t have one, small form factor PCs don’t have one, and two Macintosh computers don’t have one.

The optical drive, it seems, is dead.

When netbooks arrived without optical drives no one minded much as they were and are intended to be secondary computers, you don’t do optical disc stuff on them. However, when Apple withdrew one from its entry-level Mac Mini people began voicing that this was too revolutionary a move. To give them credit, Apple have been rather good at predicting technological deaths before the PC world. With their 1998 iMac range, the floppy drive was gone and they helped popularise USB.

The problem with discarding optical drives now, however, is that people still have a use for them, even though it’s fair to say that their dependence is dwindling. The amount of boxed software I purchased for my ageing PC in recent years I can probably count on one hand, and when I watch DVDs I’m more likely to watch them on the TV with a dedicated player than on my 15” monitor. But I do like to rip CDs frequently (that yet not converted) to my large-capacity iPod even if I’m now only buying CDs of artists whose products I really want to own in physical form.
Data sharing via disc is becoming less popular with higher speed broadband, not to mention USB thumb drives.

Apple might be smart thinkers if, say soon, you could buy dual rights to a title. That is, when you buy a CD in-store or online you also get a download code to save you needing to rip a digital version. Downloading, currently, only takes a little more longer than ripping, and ISP download allowances are getting more generous. The same could apply to DVDs. I wouldn’t even mind if the downloads had DRM on them in this case.
This is a plausible scenario given that Apple’s current desktop operating system integrates the app store from their portable internet devices. Macs other than the Air and Mini still come with optical drives, but only one – and for how much longer? Many PCs have two which, certainly to the dismay of anti-piracy groups, have made the illegal copying of discs very easy.

There’s talk of PC manufacturers following suit when Windows 8 rolls out, and if that’s the case, all traditional computers without any form of storage are likely going to be the norm shortly. We’ve already seen Google come out with the Chromebook laptop that has everything in the cloud.

I do have some reservations about cloud computing though. I don’t feel very comfortable about all my data being off-site and I don’t like having to need an internet connection just to fire up a word processor. Likewise, does a graphic designer or musician really need cloud computing? But technology moves forward and you have to learn to love it or just not use it.

Going back to the optical drive, there’s nothing wrong with attaching an external one if you really need it on such computers, but I do think it’s a tad premature that these are omitted on desktop computers like the Mac Mini. Even so, it’s true to say that I don’t use my drives much and in the case of the Mini, if it did have an internal drive and it broke (a drive of mine once minced a disc and died) you would probably need to get the whole machine serviced due to Apple’s beautiful but irritating case design.
I only really use discs to rip content and if I can download what I physically own I don’t need an optical drive.  Because of laziness (that is, the effort to pull a CD from a shelf) I often listen to CDs I own through Spotify (I don’t keep rips on my computer due to limited disk space).

Just to add: my eight year old desktop computer has a floppy drive too. I only used it a few times in its first year. Maybe the computer’s replacement will be a Mac Mini in a year or two?