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The most terrifying compliment you can pay someone with a hidden illness

In news which will surprise nobody, I suffer from CFS/ME. It's a difficult condition to manage, not only because of its effects but also because of the way people react to it – or, more specifically, don't react to it. CFS/ME, fibromyalgia, and similar conditions present – to the uninformed eye – as a person being antisocial and lazy. One of the top worries for a sufferer who is able to hold down a job is how…

The mind-controlling parasite that affects 1 in 3 humans

There is a parasitic infection which 30% of the human population of this planet carries. It's easy to pick up, passes from mother to child, and can present no obvious symptoms. It has also evolved the ability to influence its host's thoughts, decisions, and behaviour. Its traditional reproductive cycle is between cats and their prey. Simple enough. An infected cat craps Toxoplasma, a rat eats the infected faecal matter and becomes infected, another cat eats the…

After the closure of Lavabit, don't look for an alternative

Having made the news by being used by Edward Snowden, the hosted secure email service service Lavabit has been forced to shut down. In a statement now available on the Lavabit website, its creator said – I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what's going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in…

The proposed UK porn filter is a threat, not a safeguard

I can count the number of times that I've agreed with David Cameron on policy without having to resort to counting. The latest move to come out of the tabloid-courting Conservative government is an opt-out filter – meaning 'enabled by default' – for all adult content, legal and otherwise. The usual suspects have rallied behind this illiberal idea. The Daily Mail calls it "a victory for the Daily Mail" and "protection for every home". Cameron even namechecks the…

Dealing with abusers on dating sites

As some of you know, I've been working on a project that bears enough similarities to a dating site to be considered Generic Dating Site for the purposes of this post. The field in which its denizens operate is one in which consent and trust is key. As such, one thing that I want to address is abusive people, and a way to handle them, while also accepting that it's feasible that malicious reports are more…

Psycholinguistics, social engineering, and vulnerable people

"Orange" "Orange orange orange orange orange orange" The chunk of the human brain that deals with linguistic processing – turning words into concepts and vice versa – has a strange feature. If it says, writes, or hears the same word enough, that word starts to lose all meaning; the link between word and concept breaks down, and we see a series of squiggles or noises. As time passes, the effect fades quickly. "Asylum seekers." If you're like me,…

HPV: a weapon against young women

A little while ago, someone very close to me was diagnosed with 'abnormal cells' in her cervical smear. This is the first stage in the development of cervical cancer. All those that knew were worried; she was understandably terrified. Cervical cancer is a real killer - it comprises 9% of female cancer deaths. She was lucky. No cancer developed. Over 270,000 people per year are not as fortunate, and it goes on to kill them.…