How Prohibition Put the Cocaine in Coca-Cola


I grew up in a country town. It was the sixties and we were all – or so I read in the Daily Mail – off to hell in a handcart because drugs were everywhere.

I’d have been glad to jump into the handcart and bucket off with the rest of my doomed generation, except that as far as I could see, nobody had any drugs at all.

I’d have tried anything. I did smoke banana skins once because I had read they were narcotic. It was a fiasco on all sorts of levels – not least because I never came up with reason for keeping banana skins in the airing cupboard that my mum found at all plausible.

The other piece of secret knowledge was that there was cocaine in Coca Cola and that if you put an aspirin in a bottle of coke, the drug would be released.

I always wondered if it was an urban myth until I came across this piece:

How Prohibition Put the Cocaine in Coca-Cola.

I love the notion that the early cocaine infused formulation was ‘an intellectual beverage’. I bet.

How Prohibition Put the Cocaine in Coca-Cola

When the Stone Age ended

An average day in the stone age
An average day in the stone age

The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones.

Watching the falling oil prices has been fascinating. Saudi Arabia has clearly been at the heart of the continued high production that is driving it, but it’s never been clear to me why they would want to, effectively, reduce their income and deplete a finite resource.

There are the various and machiavellian political theories of course – Syria and Russia loom large in these, but really? As a main driver of such a seismic shift in policy? I’ve never really been convinced.

An article in the Energy Post had a fresh and, I thought, much more convincing take on what Saudi is up to. The author, Elias Hinckley, a strategic advisor on energy finance and energy policy writes that:

“Saudi Arabia is seeing a new and massively changing energy landscape. The U.S. and China have agreed to bilateral carbon reduction targets.  2014 is now officially the hottest year recorded in human history, a record set almost impossibly without the presence of El Nino.  And on January 7 a report released in Nature lays bare the fossil fuel climate change equation by concluding that to achieve anything better than a 50/50 shot at keeping global warming under 2 degrees centigrade (the most widely accepted threshold for avoiding catastrophic climate change) 82% of fossil reserves must remain in the ground.  That report puts hard numbers on the percentages of fossil fuels that must “stay in the ground” and calls for 38% of proven Mideast oil reserves to never to be pumped from the ground.  That 38% represents some 260 billion barrels of oil – worth tens of trillions of dollars – much of that not held in Saudi reserves.”

Renewables are gaining ground – they are growing cheaper and more efficient so that there is less need for oil. It won’t be so hard, in the near future to achieve consensus about leaving the oil in the ground.

As Sheik Yamani – a former Saudi Oil Minister said in 2000:

Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

Saudi oil is accessible, cheap to pump and they have a lot of it. They have no other significant source of income so why not pump it out and sell it – even at a seriously discounted price – while they can sell it at all.

As Hinckley says:

‘The owner of the most valuable fossil fuel reserve on Earth just started discounting for a future without fossil fuels.  While they would never state this reasoning publicly, their actions speak on their behalf.  And that changes everything.’

Worth a read.

An average day in the petrol age




When the Stone Age ended

I’ve just finished reading…

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It’s been on the bookshelf for a while and I’ve started it once or twice, but needed to be in the right frame of mind to settle into it. You need to take your time with the rhythm and allow meaning to wash over you. It’s a marvellous book.


“The force behind the movement of time is a mourning that will not be comforted. That is why the first event is known to have been an expulsion, and the last is hoped to be a reconciliation and return. So memory pulls us forward, so prophecy is only brilliant memory–there will be a garden where all of us as one child will sleep in our mother Eve, hooped in her ribs and staved by her spine.”

“Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water–-peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing–-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.”

I’ve just finished reading…


On a working trip to Lisbon on a few years ago our host took us on a hair raising drive through the city to a club frequented by Cape Verdians.

It was dark, the club was in a large room in the heart of what seemed to be a a decaying palace.

The band played a song called Sodade. You didn’t need a translation – the music was filled with longing and the sense of exile. I was reminded when I found this, from a collection of untranslatable words. If you’do like to feel what Sodade means, give Cesario Evora a listen.