The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WTF Was That?!

I loves me some Phil Plait. The author of the very popular blog Bad Astronomy recently put up a fantastic post about a mystery in the sky, something with which he is very familiar with dealing. It's great; it has the mystery (complete with awesome video), speculation, delving into problem solving, huddling up with other interested people to try to figure it out, and then a likely solution. It's what skepticism and critical thinking is all about - amazement, assessment, problem solving, differential solutions, conclusion, openness to review, and right back to amazement.

Thanks, Phil.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brandon Raynor Blathers On...And On

Man, that's an hour of my life I'll never get back.

I've talked about Brandon Raynor before but now he's apparently broadcasting from his QuackCave on the top of an active volcano in Hawai'i. He's Dr. Evil in boardshorts and without a mini-me.

I watched Raynor's new video (which I won't embed here because, man, you can watch it if you want to, but be forewarned, it's rambling and brutal) and it's just as full of nonsense as his website. I'm going to comment on his content a little, but this won't be a full fisk because I just can't be bothered to go through his piffle in that kind of detail.

I will say, however, that he spends a great deal of time talking about the same four topics over and over ad nauseum. It really is an hour-long video that could have been about 15 minutes. Please, Brandon, write out some talking points first.

The four topics he hits are the insurance industry, his idea of "Western" medicine, Canadian RMTs being "over-educated", and the public's "freedom to choose" the health care they want. I'll try to briefly tackle these in order.

Raynor doesn't like that massage is covered by insurance because massage should be "preventative", like getting the oil changed in your car. He says it has a place, but for the most part, the industry is an unnecessary middleman. It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that Raynor doesn't like insurance because they ask that the treatments they cover show evidence of efficacy. Now, this falls apart with some companies that cover nonsense like homeopathy, but generally insurance companies want to know that they won't have to pay for a treatment indefinitely. If a health-care provider is honest, they want to get their patient/client better and back to their life without pain and within a reasonable time-frame. A treatment plan is provided to the insurance agent and it is approved or denied based on the client's needs. Once the client's insurance coverage is exhausted, they can choose to continue out-of-pocket if that is their wish.

I always tell people that if they feel good, they don't need to come unless they want to relax, and if they can't take an hour a month, then they're working too hard. Additionally, I tell them that it doesn't have to be a massage they get for that hour, it can be anything they enjoy; just take that hour at least. I get the feeling that Raynor would push a little harder...but again, I could be wrong.

The idea that there is such a thing as "Western" medicine is nonsense. This is one of those red-flag terms like medicine that is described as "allopathic", "complementary", or "alternative": these are only used by people who are trying to legitimize nonsense and gain a semblance of false-equivalence with medicine that actually has biological plausibility, peer-reviewed evidence, and replication.

There is only medicine that has been tested and proven to work, and everything else. Raynor goes on and on about ancient, traditional, and native healing that has been around for thousands of years, but he seems painfully unaware of the "argument from antiquity" fallacy aka, the appeal to tradition. As Tim Minchin says in, White Wine in the Sun, "I don't believe just 'cause ideas are tenacious it means they are worthy".

Raynor also does the standard "alt." med. thing of claiming preventative medicine as its own and stating repeatedly that doctors don't treat the "whole person". Pure hogwash. Doctors, physios, and other science-based health professionals (yes, good RMTs as well) recommend healthy diets and exercise as standard care. Nothing about this is "alternative". I can say that, yes, doctors are rushed and sometimes do not treat patients with the level of touchy-feeliness that the alties can, but this is a function of those bad insurance companies again and because Raynor et al aren't covered, they can give you all the warm fuzzies you want; they'll just "feel" where your "toxins" are built up and where your "chi" is "blocked", then they'll fix you up good as new, Cupcake.

I just hope you don't have a disease that they're keeping you from getting treated by a real doctor.

Which brings me to us "over-educated" RMTs here in Canada. Raynor goes to great lengths in his hour-long video to bemoan the "little doctor" syndrome we have going on here in Ontario and British Columbia (plus Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador). It seems we could have just taken his 10 or 15 day course and been out treating people and making money right away! We've wasted out time getting all that fancy-but-ultimately-useless training. Just start rubbing, people! You'll learn what you need to know by "feeling" and by old-fashioned on-the-job work. At about the 38 minute mark, Raynor actually says there is, "...too much mental activity and not enough heart activity...". I can't really add anything to that.

He is very passive/aggressive and condescending when talking about massage therapy colleges in Canada versus his courses. He says his courses are for "more mature people" and that if you want to go to a college to "meet the boys and girls", then good for you, and refers to "kindergarten massage". Resorting to this sort of attack only shows a lack of maturity in Raynor (and this coming from a guy who calls people names on the regular!).

The entire hour talk is like watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Raynor thinks he's the smartass kid who skips school and gets the girl, who everything works out for while the stupid, clueless parents and school officials blunder about. It's pretty amazing.

Lastly I want to address this "freedom to choose" point. Raynor suggests that people should have the right to go to whatever health care option they want. With this, I agree. He says multiple times that people are trying to shut him down, which does not seem to be entirely accurate. I said myself that:
The Brandon Raynor School must not be allowed to continue advertising in Toronto as it has been.
This statement is a far cry from not allowing them to exist at all. Just change your advertising.

Raynor says that the "free market" should decide what's best and suggests that RMTs in Canada and our colleges are scared of competition. This is nonsense and skirts the real issue of informed consumer consent to what they're getting. As I said in the same post linked above:
By lowering or eliminating standards, as Raynor advocates, we will only see unqualified individuals ultimately causing harm to the public either directly or, more likely, indirectly by changing their minds so clients believe that working with nonsense like “chi”, “meridians”, or “energy” will heal what ails them. It is then that laypersons will avoid actual proven therapies in times of need, causing pain, suffering and in worst case scenarios, death.
I heard recently (and I'll paraphrase) that if you get a contractor to build your house, you wouldn't expect that person to ask you if you'd like it built out of wood and concrete or jello and silly putty. Sure, it's a choice, but the latter is silly and would never work. This is the option that Raynor proposes we offer to health care patients, except many people will not be able to tell that all he's offering are the equivalent of jello and silly putty.

I've said it before, I have very little idea how my engine works so I depend on my mechanic to do a good job. Laypersons require the same when they go to a health professional and I should not be made to know the intricate workings of a transmission any more than they should be expected to know the methodologies of science. Raynor suggests that public approval should be the benchmark of quality and acceptance, but a hundred thousand Elvis fans can be wrong and popularity does not equal efficacy. I don't care how many people believe in acupuncture, the science shows that it's ineffective; same goes for chi, reiki, homeopathy and almost all of the "alt." med. canon.

Show me that it works with good, quality, controlled evidence that can be replicated and I'll look at it seriously and very likely even change my mind. Until then, you're just blathering on...and on....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Example of Some Stupid Jewish Folks

I pick on Christians and Muslims a lot, mostly for the really dumb shit they do and say. Today, however, it is the Jewish that are in the cross hairs. Funny I mention "hair" because you'll never guess what happened:
Jerusalem rabbis 'condemn dog to death by stoning'
Yep, they thought...well, I'll let them tell it:
A Jewish rabbinical court condemned to death by stoning a stray dog it feared was the reincarnation of a lawyer who insulted its judges
Jesus fucking Christ that's a dumb story. Whiskey! Now!Aaaaaaand that's all I have to say about that because it's so stupid my brain just punched my face in the face for reading it.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Premier Fitness Sucks Balls

Here is a video from CBC's Marketplace exposing questionable fee collection practices (and business practices in general) by Premier Fitness. I had a bad experience with Premier Fitness and figured that now would be a good time to share. Below you'll read a series of emails detailing how I tried to get my money back. They are numbered for clarity.

NUMBER 1
August 3, 2010

Ms. Bhatt,

I have a problem that I would like addressed. In this letter, I will explain the problem and then I will propose a solution that I believe will leave both Premiere Fitness and me satisfied.

In February of 2009 I joined Premier Fitness at the (location deleted) When I filled out the paperwork I specifically asked the manager at the time if the membership rolled over automatically into a new year once the initial membership was complete and pointed out that I did not want this. I wanted one year and then would decide whether or not I would renew. She said that this was the case. I do not remember her name. In the subsequent months my wife joined the gym which gave me a free month added to the end of my year. In February 2010, the payments stopped for the "free month" of March, but then began again in April. I was annoyed, but assumed it was a minor glitch and that the auto withdrawals would stop very soon. I should have been more aggressive at the time in pursuing the matter, but I waited until late May to call the Oshawa location to cancel my membership formally. The employee said that I had to personally go to the gym to cancel as it could not be done over the phone. I went to the Oshawa location on June 3, 2010 and filled out the paperwork to cancel my membership. The girl at the counter assured me that the situation was handled and that the final payment would take two weeks and that the last withdrawal would be on June 11, 2010. She gave me a copy of the Request Form where I noted the last payment date and the "manager's authorization" signature seems to say "Lucy305". The June 11 payment came out as she said, and then another came out on June 24, 2010 at the normal $18.11 rate.

At this point I was very angry and called the location again. I spoke to a manager named Adam who told me that the previous girl I spoke to had not been correct when she said that the last payment would be on June 11, but that it took 30 days to stop the payments and even then, there were no guarantees. He told me that the last payment *should* be on July 2, 2010 (billed to me on July 8, 2010 at a new, higher rate of $19.49 because of the HST being initiated).

The July 8, 2010 payment came off my VISA, and then another came off on July 21, 2010. It is this payment that has prompted my letter to you as it seems that no one at the Oshawa location knows what they are talking about. That is the story and here is my proposed solution: Because of my slow response to the continued withdrawal of money from my VISA (even though I made it clear to the original manager that I did not want my membership to automatically roll over into a new year), I am only concerned with the money taken from me from after June 11, 2010. This date was to be the last time Premiere Fitness had access to my account and the fact that the employee made a mistake is not my fault nor my problem. I would like the money taken from me from that date refunded plus an additional fee. This fee is for my time, which amounts to - and I am being conservative in my estimate - three hours spent on the phone and going to the (location deleted) to deal with a problem that should never have existed had the original manager done her job. This does not take into account the annoyance and stress of dealing with this on top of normal life problems and duties. I bill at seventy dollars ($70.00) per hour (equal to my work hourly rate) which would make the total refund amount $267.09 (achieved from $70 x 3 = $210 plus $18.11, plus $19.49 x 2).

This solution would let both parties walk away from this situation with some semblance of satisfaction - your company would have my entire year of membership dues, all of April and May, plus the June 11th payment; and I would feel like you at least took my complaint seriously and dealt with it for a very minimal cost to Premiere's bottom line. I await your response and thank you for your time and attention in dealing with this matter.

Sincerely,

Michael McCarron

NUMBER 2
Date: August 4, 2010 at 6:40 PM
Subject: Re: Membership Cancellation & Payment Complaint

We have received your E-mail, Manish Vyas(Ext 2251) is going to contact you to resolved your membership issue ASAP.

Thanking you

Hina Bhatt
Customer Service Manager and
Account Receivable Supervisor
Premier Fitness
Corporate Office


NUMBER 3
On September 6, 2010 at 8:44 AM Norma wrote:

Sorry for the delay at responsding I will go over your file on Tuesday when I return and contact you then as to what compensation premier can do

Norma botelho
Premier fitness

Sent from Norma Botelho's iphone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Manishin Vyas
Date: August 4, 2010 7:11:03 PM EDT
To: Norma -
Subject: Fwd: Re: Membership Cancellation & Payment Complaint

Attn: Norma

CANCELLATION

PF041214

JUNE 3, 2010 - CANCELLATION Request

NAME: MCCARRON MICHAEL

STATUS - OK DUES MEMBER IS ASKING 3 PAYMENTS REFUNDS + 3 HOURS @ $70.00 PER HOUR ($210) KINDLY DO THE NEEDFUL.

Refer attached EMAIL from Member

Regards.

Manish
Ext. 2251



Norma


NUMBER 4
On September 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM Norma -
wrote:

Michael,

Please be informed that we are in the process of the refund for all the payments that got charged against your account after July 3, 2010 (30 days recession period). In regards to your second request for money back for your 3 hours that has not been approved yet. I wanted to get your refund out to you as soon as possible. If we approved the second refund I will send it at a different time.

Norma Botelho
Premier Fitness


NUMBER 5
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2010 15:43:16 -0400
From: Norma Botelho
To: (my email address)
Subject: Re: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON

Please be informed that your refund cheque will be ready for pickup from the Oshawa club on Monday if there is anything that I can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact me.


NUMBER 6

On 2010-09-27, at 9:42 PM, Michael McCarron wrote:

Ms. Botelho,

I will be picking up the cheque you mentioned in your last email as of tomorrow (September 28th). After checking my bank account and counting seven withdrawals from July 3rd, my expectation is that the reimbursement should be for $136.43 which is $19.49 x 7. The last withdrawal of these seven was made by Premier Fitness on September 24th, which was a full week after your last email - can you tell me exactly when your company will stop taking my money without my consent? It does not seem like a difficult thing to do; just tell whoever it is who schedules the withdrawals to stop. It can not be more than one or perhaps two emails at most to get that done.

I await your contact to let me know when I can expect the cheque for my time spent dealing with your company's unprofessional and unacceptable delays in stopping the withdrawals. That amount remains - for the time being - at $210.00.

Michael McCarron


NUMBER 7

From: Norma Botelho
To: (my email address)
Subject: Re: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2010 22:00:47 -0400

I will make the correction to the refund

I don't understand why it was not cancelled

I will make sure it is corrected tomorrow

Norma

(note: I went to the club to pick up my cheque and the manager was not there. No one at the club had a key to her office. This meant I had to leave and return when she was there which, due to my schedule, was the following day. More hassle and more time wasted. No one at the club could give me a satisfactory reason why no one else has/had access to the manager's office when they knew I was coming.)

NUMBER 8

On 2010-09-28, at 4:57 PM, Michael McCarron wrote:

Ms. Botelho,

It takes quite a bit for me to get angry but your company and you have succeeded in getting me to that point.

As per my last email, I was expecting a cheque in the amount of $136.43 (that number being $19.49 {the bi-weekly due amount} x 7 {the number of unauthorized withdrawals by your company}). The amount that the cheque was for when I picked it up today was $97.46. This is a difference of $38.97 which you still owe me for the dues taken - at this point I'm almost willing to say "stolen" - from me without my consent. We agreed to the amount of $136.43 as you can see from your last email where you said you would, "...make the correction to the refund", and yet it was still incorrect. What am I left to think? Either you do not know what you are doing and are incapable of making a simple phone call, email, or fax; or you are knowingly trying to defraud me. I prefer to think the former.

At this point I am requesting that I deal with someone above you in the chain of command because I am tired of correcting mistakes.

Please pass all of our correspondence to the next person who can get the correct amount of remaining refund ($38.97) to me in addition to the cheque for the three hours of my time ($210.00) wasted dealing with people who cannot do their jobs.


Michael McCarron


NUMBER 9

From: Norma Botelho
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 5:22 PM
To: Michael McCarron
Cc: Yasmeen Mian
Subject: Re: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON

I will also forward you to Yasmeen Mian

I will have her contact you

Sent from Norma Botelho's iphone


NUMBER 10

From: Yasmeen Mian
To: (my email address
CC: Norma Botelho
Subject: RE: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 08:07:45 -0400

Good Morning Michael,

This is in reference to your recent request to Norma. Norma has adjusted the additional payment of $39.00. This will be reimbursed by another cheque sometime this week. I apologize for the inconvenience, I have ensured the account is Cancelled, and no further payments will be debited from your account. There are no further monies owed to you after this reimbursement.

Thank You.

Yasmeen Mian

Database Manager

Premier/Mademoiselle Womens Fitness

Corporate Head Office

905-602-9912 Ext 2221


NUMBER 11

From: Michael McCarron
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:07 AM
To: Yasmeen Mian
Cc: Michael McCarron
Subject: RE: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON

Ms. Mian,

Thank you for your reply. I will be checking my account to ensure that no further payments are taken and will pick up the correction payment from the Oshawa Premiere Fitness on Monday October 4th. It is very disappointing that you and your company feel my time is worthless with respect to the mistakes and incompetence with which I have been forced to deal. I will never enter a contract with any business that uses this company to handle its finances again and will advise any friends/contacts to refrain from doing the same.

Michael McCarron


NUMBER 12

From: Yasmeen Mian
To: (my email address)
Subject: RE: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 09:14:14 -0400

Michael,

My intention certainly was not to imply this at all. I would like the opportunity to make things better for your experience. Could we offer some free time in lieu of the time spent?.. Please hold off on picking the cheque up on Monday. I don’t want you to go out there until I can be guaranteed it is there. I am awaiting the cheque… Please stand by for the timing of pick up on the cheque.

Thanks

Yasmeen Mian

Database Manager

Premier/Mademoiselle Womens Fitness

Corporate Head Office

905-602-9912 Ext 2221


NUMBER 13

From: Michael McCarron
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 10:55 AM
To: Yasmeen Mian
Cc: Michael McCarron
Subject: RE: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON

Ms. Mian,

Intentionally or not, the implication of nothing further being owed to me is what I stated. I do not wish to spend more time, free or not, in the place that has caused the amount of annoyance Premiere Fitness has to me.

I will await contact from you before I pick up the reimbursement cheque from the gym.

Michael McCarron


NUMBER 14

From: Yasmeen Mian
To: (my email address)
Subject: RE: PF041214 mICHAEL mCcARRON
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 10:57:02 -0400

That’s fine, I’ll be in touch.

Thanks

Yasmeen Mian

Database Manager

Premier/Mademoiselle Womens Fitness

Corporate Head Office

905-602-9912 Ext 2221

My final cheque was picked up and was for the "correct" amount of thirty-nine dollars. The quotes are used because so much of my time was wasted on dealing with this annoyingly incompetent company that I feel I am certainly owed the hourly fee I requested. There is no way, in my opinion, that these charges are taken from people by mistake. It is my opinion that Premier Fitness does this on purpose because they know the statistics; they know that most people join a gym at the beginning of a year and go for about a month, then stop. They know that if they get billing information and give the client a "deal", they can charge the client a bi-weekly fee that is small enough to not really be noticed. They also know that most people, after ten months or so, won't miss the $40/month (approximately) that they've been paying for the last year without using the facilities.

I'm not saying that this is what they do, I'm saying that this is my opinion of what they do.

It has been my experience that the owners of Premier Fitness want money above all and make their employees do their jobs in such a way as to ensure that they get the most money possible.

In my opinion, they suck. They suck balls.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My But This Is Fantastic

Check the hell out of this video, via Richard Wiseman's blog. It's great. Just trust me, I'm a skeptic (argument from authority) and everybody likes it (arguement from popularity).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dear Vancouver,

I'm sorry your ignorant, violent, drunken hockey fans & hooligans rioted and destroyed your city, flipping vehicles and burning police cars. That really sucks and I hope you catch the perpetrators and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

That said, I don't ever want to hear you bitching about how potentially violent and disruptive an Ultimate Fighting Championship event might be and how you want the promotion to pay crazy fees for extra police coverage. There have been two UFCs in Vancouver now and only one problem that couldn't even be positively linked to UFC fans. The linked article said:
Police have not linked the beating to the UFC event, although Holtzman said in an interview a few days after the incident that he believed his attackers attended the fights at Rogers Arena.
Just a point of note here: I don't give a hill of ant shit if the unfortunate victim of the hate crime believes his attackers were at the event. I care if they had tickets or if there was video footage of them entering/leaving the venue. Show me proof. That said, even if they are huge UFC fans and even if they did commit the horrible crime they're accused of because of their jar-headed, semi-literate adoration of cage-fighting, it's still only two guys out of thousands and they should be put in jail and/or fined and made to do community service at an AIDS hospice.

Look at the picture in the first link. If it was non-hockey fans that started the riots, so be it, but you can't tell me that all the people with their fists defiantly in the air watching the overturned truck burn are anarchists who weren't at the game.

Vancouver, if you have a problem with the UFC and its fans, you should have a much bigger problem with NHL hockey and its fans.

Sincerely,
Mike

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Joint Pain and Weather Changes

Working in the physio clinic for almost seven years now I have heard most tall tales, wives tales, bullshit tales, and verified truth tales. One tale that is oft-repeated is that you should soak in a hot bath with epsom salts after a workout to speed recovery and prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Turns out, not so much. Another is the claim so many patients make regarding joint pain and changing barometric pressure. But is it true? A hundred million Elvis fans can't be wrong...right?

Well, I checked the available research because, as you are all well aware, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". There are five citations and I'll briefly hit each one with commentary.

The first one had 54 participants and those were followed over four months. The results stated:
Twenty nine patients kept daily records during the first 2 months. There was no positive correlation between weather parameters (such as temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure) and pain ratings. Interestingly, the pain rating significantly increased the day after the advent of a cold wave (sign test, p less than 0.01; Wilcoxon signed ranks test, p=0.001). The number of patients who experienced joint swelling was not related to weather conditions. Twenty one participants continued maintaining the diaries during the next 2 months. The patients reported higher pain levels in the first 2 months during the cold wave period than in the next 2 months when the cold wave period had ended (p less than 0.001).
To my untrained eye, this seems like no biggie. Joint pain doesn't seem to be related. The authors' conclusion, however said:
A dramatic weather change such as a sudden cold wave might influence the experience of joint pain.
Ok, they use the word, "might", but it still seems like they're trying to make it seem like there was more of a correlation than there actually was. On to number two...

This study, entitled, "Weather conditions can influence rheumatic diseases" came to the conclusion:
Our data demonstrate that osteoarthritic patients experience increased joint pain in response to a decrease in pressure, indicating that low atmospheric pressure conditions exacerbate joint pain in these patients.
I'm going to need someone versed in study analysis to check the methodology for me on this one, but there were 92 participants on one side of the blind and a control group of 42, so not enough to make sweeping generalizations.

The third study, done on rats, showed that:
...lowering barometric pressure and ambient temperature within the range of natural environmental fluctuation intensify pain in arthritic rats.
So if you're an arthritic rat, you better stay away from the rodent research lab at Nagoya University. Not sure how cross-applicable these results are, but you never know.

Fourthly, this study which focuses more on seasonal changes with respect to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) compared to Behcet's disease (BD). Not really relevant to the discussion here, plus the results were gathered by telephone survey. Objective data is really better than a subjective relay of remembered symptoms.

And lastly, a one-month prospective study involving 62 participants which concluded:
In most patients weather changes increased arthritic symptoms. Women were more sensitive to weather than men (62% v 37%). Pain was affected positively by barometric pressure and temperature in RA; by temperature, rain, and barometric pressure in OA; and by barometric pressure in fibromyalgia. These results support the belief of most rheumatic patients that weather conditions significantly influence their day to day symptoms.
I found a nice summary of the thinking on weather change/joint pain from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In it, they discuss the evidence and say:
The results of these studies have been varied. Based primarily on a compilation of patient anecdotes (reports of arthritis sufferers, for instance), increased barometric pressure (in fair weather conditions) has been associated with increased joint pain. Conversely, others studies have shown a relationship between increased joint pain and decreased barometric pressure (in stormier weather). Still other studies have suggested that changing weather conditions can cause immediate pain in some patients and delayed pain in others.
This paragraph seems to me to lean toward saying it's made up by the patients. If the reactions are this varied, it is consistent with a non-existent phenomenon - and this paragraph was in the "evidence for" section of the article. Interestingly, one point brought up shortly after the above one is this:
...many doctors claim that the wide variety of arthritic conditions and sheer complexity of atmospheric variability makes coming up with meaningful connections between joint pain and weather conditions next to impossible.
True enough. It has to be difficult to isolate a variable when you're dealing with a (literally) chaotic system like the weather.

The final point is one worth re-printing here. It is one skeptics make again and again with respect to myriad claims and beliefs, but here it is just as relevant:
(Belief that weather changes cause pain is ok)...as long as it doesn’t interfere with (the) motivation to change the things they actually can control. Anticipation of a favorable weather forecast is no substitution for exercise, weight loss and medication when necessary.
Shout the truth, Brother. Believe whatever you want, just do the shit you need to in order to fix what's wrong with you.

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Dear Dumbass Atheist Vandals...

Dear Dumbass Vandals,

I know you think you're being funny and edgy with your "Praise the FSM" graffiti, but you're not. You're annoying and forcing your beliefs onto others, which is precisely why we get annoyed with certain religious people/groups. You are fucking idiots.

Any readers from Bend, Oregon should pay attention to the quote below:
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said whoever's (sic) caught could be charged with criminal mischief and intimidation -- both misdemeanor crimes that come with possible jail time and fines up to $2,500.

If you have information that could lead to the vandals, you're asked to call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876-TIPS. You can remain anonymous, and could be eligible for a cash reward.
If you know these fucking idiots, please call and turn them in. If you are these fucking idiots, turn yourselves in, admit that you're fucking idiots, and clean up your mess. Your actions do NOT represent the opinion of atheists and you are clearly young, impressionable, fucking idiots.

If you want to chip in to help pay for the clean-up of the churches, Hemant at The Friendly Atheist is organizing a fund-raising drive. Go there and do what you can to correct this wrong.

(h/t to Jake over at The Good Atheist)

Apologies

Sorry, that last post about joint pain and the weather was a draft that accidentally got published. It'll be out soon with the proper amount of analysis and snark.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rick "Frothy Mix of Lube and Feces" Santorum

Yes, he's still a giant fuckhead after all. Rick Santorum said recently in an interview that:
I believe that life begins at conception, and that that life should be guaranteed under the Constitution. That is a person....I would advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion, should be criminally charged for doing so.
Yeah. So that happened. I'm curious if one of Santorum's daughters was, god forbid, raped, if he'd be so against abortion. It seems to me that people that are that against abortion are so because it has never appeared on their block, so to speak.

Also, what should they be charged with, Rick? Should the raped woman be charged as well? With what, persay? Probably 30 lashes in the public square, right? A return to a male-dominated, pre-scientific, Dark Ages religious society would suit Santorum just fine, I'd imagine. He can correct me, of course, but he won't. For one, my blog is read by about four people, for two, he likely believes exactly what I've said.

What a tremendous asshole. A frothy mix of lube and feces, to be sure.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

New Zealand Naturopaths Love to Kill Kids

Edzard Ernst linked to this notice from the New Zealand Society of Naturopaths responding to recommendations regarding vaccinations. I have quoted extensively below with my commentary either in brackets or below the blocking. Here we go:
The Report of the Health Committee -Inquiry into how to improve completion rates of childhood immunisation, the coronial process and the adverse reaction process this year raises some concerns for the New Zealand Society of Naturopaths (NZSN).
Really? You mean naturopaths are against vaccination? I'm going to pass the fuck out from not-surprise.
We see this as a coercive measure that may put undue pressure on the parents and stop them seeking information (from ignorant, scientifically illiterate morons) to make an informed decision in light of all the (flawed) evidence (against vaccination).
A "coercive measure", eh? Sort of like not mentioning to "patients" the complete lack of scientific validity to most/all of the "therapies" you recommend? Sort of like that? Yeah, I thought so.
...we believe that the money spent on implementing and carrying out the payments of incentives would be better spent on health education for example to encourage parents to provide a nutritious diet for their children and promote a healthy lifestyle.
You know, like people did before the understanding of germ theory and when a huge percentage of children died horribly from now-preventable diseases. Like that. Back to the Dark Ages, Poindexter! Take some of this Valerian Root and stick this needle in your arm! You'll feel great. Oh, and make sure it's a Wednesday and you're standing under a Willow Tree. They're very wise, you know. It'll help! ...fuck me....
The NZSN are disturbed by the plan to issue all children with a certificate of vaccination on entering school (because healthy kids means no business). This may cause (well-meaning but ill-informed/deluded/misled) parents who object to vaccinations to avoid early education facilities or withdraw their children from school.
Oh no! unvaccinated kids staying away from the population to avoid spreading illness?! What a fucking tragedy! Listen, there is a responsibility to choosing to avoid vaccination, dumbasses, and part of that responsibility is to segrate your kids away from the protected population to keep preventable disease away. Get it?
The NZSN would like an assurance from the Ministry of Health that if such certificates are issued that it follow the recommendations of the report and make it very clear to all parents that their children can still attend school even if they are not vaccinated, and that vaccination is not compulsory.
Vaccination certainly is not, nor should it be, compulsory. It should, however, be made abundantly clear to parents and the general public that vaccines are safe, effective, and the best choice to protect those who cannot be vaccinated via herd immunity. Also, it should be made clear that the "therapies" promoted by naturopaths are not based on actual science and are not only useless as therapies, but could actually harm people either directly (an acupuncture needle to the lung, for example) or indirectly (keeping an ill person from getting real medical attention that could shorten the span of the disease or save their life).
One of the recommendations of the report is that the Ministry of Health ensures it “publishes up-to-date, readily accessible evidence-based data on the positive and adverse effects of immunisation so that informed consent may be made” the New Zealand Society of Naturopaths believes that publication of adverse effects of vaccination is a step forward in giving a balanced viewpoint (i.e. their viewpoint) to enable parents and guardians make a decision on vaccination. The current literature published by the Ministry of Health regarding vaccinations rarely mentions ill effects of vaccinations. The report on the other hand, does acknowledge that there are ill effects from vaccinations.
Any actual medical pratitioner will acknowedge that for any medical intervention, there will be potential side effects. That is obvious and vaccinations are no exception. Of course there are possible side effects; most are extremely minor (think redness around the injection site) but very very rarely there are serious ones (Guillian-Barre Syndrome, seizure, etc...). These are available on any website or pamphlet that talk seriously about immunisation.

I'm curious: are there any negative side effects to homeopathy, acupunture, herbal medicine, or reiki that the naturopaths mention regularly? I doubt it, but I could be wrong.

The point is that the risk/benefit equation for vaccination is so far on the positive-for-vaccination side that there is no "balance" to be had. If you choose to not vaccinate yourself (or especially your children), you are doing it for poor reasons (aside from serious allergies, etc...). Get your shit together, assholes.

Naturopathy is stupid and useless. Stop using it. Please.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A "Psychic" Not-Story

Supposedly, a "psychic tip" led police to a home where the tipster said there were "dismembered bodies", an MSN news report stated recently.

Well, no bodies were found, a bit of a bad odour was detected, and nothing came of it other than the police's desire to question the "psychic". The detective said, "some information provided by the anonymous female tipster about the property was very specific and accurate."

Do you know what I call a person who knows intimate details about a potential crime scene? "Suspect".

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Tim Minchin at the Winter Garden Theatre - Toronto

My wife and I had a date last night and went to see Tim Minchin perform at the Winter Garden theatre in Toronto. I had seen him last year at the Second City with the hilarious Bo Burnham and enjoyed myself, but you could tell he was tired and it was the second show for him. Still, a really great time.

Last night, however, he was on point. It was a fantastic show with a good mix of older songs the audience knew (If I Didn't Have You, The Pope Song, Prejudice) with new ones that were immediately well received. Some personal highlights were "Cont", a new song about groups of which Minchin is not fond, Song for Sam's Mum" about God fixing the eyes of a Christian fan's mother, and the first encore where Minchin played my favorite Christmas song, White Wine in the Sun. It always makes me cry and this was no exception.

Tim Minchin is a fabulous pianist, a gifted lyricist, and a tremendous entertainer. My wife, who is not a skeptic/atheist/heathen like myself (although she is exposed to me regularly and bluntly when I, as Tim would say in his beat poem Storm, "go off on one of my rare, but fun, rants") had a stellar time and retold the event to her friend, who had been babysitting for us, with gusto and many laughs.

Thanks, Tim, and I look forward to next year when, I'm hopeful, you'll return. Oh, and yeah, fuck those no-shows in the front row. :)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Well, There It Is Then

While driving to work this morning, I passed a church whose sign I always read. The person seems to enjoy putting "inspiring" sayings and such, but today they pretty much laid out the opinion of religion everywhere and the reason why skeptics, critical thinkers and free inquirers, have such a dislike of it all. The quote was:
Better to walk with God in the dark than to go alone into the light.
There it is. Stay with us and be blind to all the wonders of the world and universe, blathering on about faith and mystical "holy" books. Don't leave. If you go out there, you'll be alone. Without God. Without your blankie. Without us to tell you what to think.

Hanging out there all pink and naked, as Penn Jillette said. Looks kind of sad, doesn't it?