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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rest In Peace, Patrice O'Neal

I'm a huge stand-up comedy fan, so it always sucks when one dies. It sucks especially hard when they're young and could have given so many more laughs. Patrice O'Neal was one of those guys. He was so funny - I remember laughing, crying, bent-over holding my stomach making weird dolphin noises at one of his sets I saw on television. He was suffering from diabetes and had a stroke in October shortly after performing at the Charlie Sheen roast. It's a sad day in comedy, but take a second and enjoy a bit of his act. In case you're not familiar, he is not safe for work

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Gabriele Amorth is a Crazy Person

Gabriele Amorth (I refuse to refer to priests as "father"), the former chief exorcist for the Vatican, said recently and hilariously that yoga was "satanic" and that reading Harry Potter led children to believe in "black magic and wizardy."Please, if you need your irony meter melted, read this and then come on back.
...Back? Ok, great, let's dig in, shall we? Amorth says:
In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses
Nothing at all like priests, who act in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic incantations, and feigned cannibalism. Nothing like that at all. Oh, and the rape. Let's not forget the child rape.
Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations
Riiiiight. Here's a red flag for everyone: if the person you're talking to claims to know exactly what a fictional, magical, fallen-angel "most wants", you're talking to a crazy person. Gabriele Amorth is a damn crazy person.
It's (science is) not worth a jot...The scientist simply explores what God has already created
Spoken like a man who thinks he's seen "possessed" people vomit shards of glass. You know, if you're the head exorcist for the goddamn Vatican, you'd think you might, I don't know, set up a video camera when you do your insane glass-vomitting biznazz. Just a thought.
I'll close with this:
He (Amorth) has also claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries was (sic) proof that the Anti-Christ is waging a war against the Holy See.
I'm going to go ahead and call bullshit on that. The "sex abuse" (read: child rape) scandals that have covered the Catholic church like tar and feathers is proof that that institution is peppered with pedophiles who use their position of authority over vulnerable children to rape them and destroy their lives. If there was any true justice in the world, the Catholic church would be abandoned by all and left to a quick, empty death, relegated to the history books as an unfortunate philosophical cul-de-sac best forgotten.
(Tip of the Satanic LuLuLemon yoga tights to PZ)

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Burzynski Clinic - Medical Quacks and Legal Blowhards

Oh man, did these guys step in it. Now that they have been fleecing desperate parents for expensive yet worthless "therapies" for a while, they are getting called out for it. In response to their public outing as charlatans, they are flailing around wildly with threatened lawsuits shooting out from their twitching carcass. Check out a few of the posts around the blogosphere on these cranks:
From Rhys Morgan himself
From PZ
From Andy Lewis
From Orac
From Science Based Medicine
From Skeptic North
From PalMD
From Phil Plait
From Greg Laden
From Larry Moran
From Ministry of Truth
I hope that these and the many other posts on the Burzynski "clinic" and their "treatments" get the word out: quacks should not treat deadly diseases.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

iRenew Bracelets Are Worthless Crap

I was going to do a post on the horseshit that is the "iRenew" bracelet - akin to its lawsuit-slathered cousin, the Q-Ray. While researching, however, I discovered a post by a blog called Skeptical Review from back in 2010 that covered the subject quite nicely. Go there and read Craig's post. I'll just have to wait until something else raises my ire over the next couple of days.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Great Influenza Information

Dr. Steve Novella has a nice post up over at Neurologica that answers a common question about the flu vaccine and vaccines in general. As a health-care worker I get asked about that stuff all the time and you'd be surprised how much the silly anti-vax talking points make their way into the lay-person vocabulary and ideology. It takes some calm talking down, but most of them come around eventually.

Both Dr. Novella and Dr. Mark Crislip have excellent articles on flu vaccine efficacy (and everything else).

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One Thousand

So my previous post was the one thousandth of my blogging "career". I happened to notice the odometer rolling over and thought it would be a nice place to make a milestone note - I'm coming up to my six-year blogging anniversary (on December 1st) and that means that I have averaged about 166 posts per year which is about 3 posts per week, so I'm happy to keep my moniker of "Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant". I feel comfortable that I'm at least somewhat holding up my end.

Thanks to everyone who reads/comments, even occasionally, and I look forward to continuing towards the end of the world in December 2012*.





*hahahahaha...sorry, couldn't resist.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Anonymous

You may not agree with all of Anonymous' views, but you have to admire them for Operation Darknet. Crashing servers that host child pornography and posting online, for everyone to see as evidence the information on the group members...pretty great.

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WTF, Mexico?!

A 10 year old (baby) girl has given birth in Mexico to a baby boy. The slightly older baby was having seizures so the smaller baby had to be delivered prematurely.

Here's the part that makes me crazy, however:
In that country the age of consent is 12 and abortion is not an option unless rape or sexual assault can be proven.
Um, if the girl is fucking ten (or even nine, depending on when her birthday is and when she was impregnated), doesn't that imply that she was raped/assaulted? To make any other argument seems like that old ploy that pedophiles always pull out: "I know she was ten, but she was so sexy and she was coming on to me, man."

No, assholes, she was ten (or nine). Who has sex with a nine year old? Did Muhammad move to Guadalajara with his winged horse and open a chalupa stand? And who makes the age of consent twelve? What the fuck is wrong with you, Mexico? You guys need to kick the church the hell out of your country so you can get your heads out of your asses.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Captian "Psychic" Obvious

*sigh* So my wife likes to watch Sister Wives. I'm not writing about that (this time), however, this time I am writing about a commercial for Long Island Medium. I was helping Mrs. Heathen out with a crafty endeavor while she killed the time with the aforementioned Mormon entertainment. During this, there were numerous adverts for New York's own Theresa Caputo and her "amazing" talents.

One such moment was shown - she was working out and asks what her trainer did for a living. He says that he is a fire fighter. She then apparently hears the psychic music in her head and asks him...dunh dunh dunh duuuuuuuhhhhhh, "Did something happen about 10 years ago?"

I couldn't help but think, "Um, yeah, how about 9/11?"

If that's "psychic", then there was an important date that everyone reading this had, and I want you to think about it. It was about a year ago as of...about...umm...on or around December twenty...fifth? Does that sound important or significant to you? I see that family was involved but that maybe there was just a tinge of sadness amongst all the happiness.

I read a quick interview by Entertainment Weekly - so obviously it was a hard-hitting, thoroughly researched convers....hahahahaha...sorry, I couldn't resist. It was as softball as it could have been. The balls couldn't have been softer if they were just south of Cookie Monster's (ahem) "Lady Finger".

Here's an interesting exchange:
EW: The last person to really make a splash in this space was John Edward, who was often accused of doing cold readings. What is your response to the skeptics?
Caputo: I’ve never had the privilege to meet John Edward but he had opened the door for mediums. He has laid a beautiful path for us. I would say to skeptics, just have the experience. I had somebody say on my Twitter account, ‘You’re so full of blah blah.’ I said, ‘That’s great, I value your opinion, but why don’t we do a reading on air and then see what you think before you start passing judgement.’
Yes, the "personal experience" gambit. Just try acupuncture/reiki/psychics/chiropractic/my uncle Eddie's magic underarm non-stink formula and you'll believe.

Oh, and ignore all that implausibility and scientific evidence that says my position is ridiculous. That too.

At least Jezebel injects a little bit of skepticism into the mix with this gem:
...she asks a a couple of brawny, blue-collar Italian guys if their late friend liked to drink and party. He loved hanging out and booze, they agreed. It really seems like she's shotgunning and shooting for easy stereotypes. Also, she did a whole mess of readings at her husband's job — a motorcycle repair shop — and magically knew all about the guys her husband works with.
Hammer, meet head of nail. Pound away at your leisure.

Quick end note: Does it bother anyone else that her website on TLC (Ugh, don't get me started on the "Starved For Attention" channel) is: tlc.discovery.com/videos/long-island-medium-i-believe? In short, no, Theresa, I don't believe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Excellent Quote

Please take a second and pop over to Paul Ingraham's site, Save Yourself to read a quote that is relevant and important, especially considering I went off on a rant yesterday about reiki being stupid and endorsed by my professional college.

Thanks, Tony, for pointing it out to me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I Get Mail About Reiki

Some (or most) of you may know that I am a massage therapist in Canada living just outside Toronto. As such, we have to complete what are called "continuing education units" (CEUs) to keep our certification; we must get 30 every 3 years. If you were to, say, read a book that dealt with some aspect of healthcare, you could claim one CEU per every two hours of reading. Most of the CEUs I get are from reading reviews of new studies; keeping tabs on new research and scientific developments in healthcare so as to educate my clients; and watching videos on anatomy, physiology, and pathology.

As would be expected, you can also take courses to get CEUs. These range from the normal (anatomical review, patho-physiological review, new technique development), to the borderline fraudulent (see here and scroll down to "Meridian Massage=Crazy Insane, Got No Brain"). Today in my email, I got a note about courses I can take to get some CEUs and the topic falls squarely in the "Quackery" column. I will go through the email and give my thoughts along the way.
Reiki Level l and ll for Humans and Animals
Nevermind that humans are animals...great apes, to be specific.
REIKI is an ancient Tibetan healing technique involving the "laying on of hands". It is a very powerful, complimentary therapeutic method that augments all other forms of healing. It assists the body's innate healing ability.
Um, not to be pedantic here, but reiki - as stupid as it is - is from Japan, not Tibet. Don't take my word for it, go here to Reiki.org and see for yourself! If you're going to just start making shit up, at least do it so I can't uncover your lies in four seconds. I love also how it says that reiki is "very powerful" and that it "augments all other forms of healing"...yeah, like actual medicine. It augments that really well....
REIKI literally means "Universal Life Force Energy". When one is "Attuned" to this energy by a Reiki Master they become a conduit and this energy flows through the practitioner's hands. The effects of Reiki are numerous and subjective to each person.
This is a pet peeve of mine; the misuse of the word "energy". What, exactly, does this person mean when they use that word? "Energy" is the ability of something to do work, be it chemical, mechanical, nuclear, heat, etc... When it is said that, "...this energy flows through the practitioner's hands", what the fuck does that mean? Do they heat up? Is there a chemical change in the person's hands? If there is "energy" there, then it can be detected by scientific equipment, but guess what? That never happens because these people are full of crap. If I had a crap holding machine and it was at full capacity, it would not have the same amount of crap in it that these people carry around on a typical day. It's astounding.
Some of the common benefits are:

Pain relief
Stress reduction/relaxation
Promotes rapid healing
Balances body energies & energy fields
Helps cleanse toxins from body
Releases emotional & energetic blockages
Re-establishes spiritual & mental well-being
Ah, here we go, claims. This is the real meat & potatos of what's wrong. When this email says that reiki practitioners can "promote rapid healing", that is a testable claim. They are saying that when they do what they do, people who are ill, sick, or injured will get better faster than if they are not there, doing what they do. I wonder if there are any studies on that.... Oh, there's at least one, and its conclusion is not good for bolstering the reiki community.
Conclusion Distant reiki had no significant effect on pain following an elective C-section.
Moving on. Of course they have to throw "toxins" in there because, why the hell wouldn't you at this point? Once you've gone to "Balances body energies and energy fields", you're well into Woo-Woo Land - hell, you're the mayor of WooVille with a big pin on your lapel that says "I (heart) WOO!". You're pretty far from the physics department is what I'm trying to say.
Reiki is easy to learn and simple to practice. The Attunements that each of you will receive are sacred rituals performed by the Reiki Master, and involve opening your chakras to allow the energy to flow through you.
Does this sound inappropriately sexual to anyone else? Anyone?
We are offering 2 degrees or levels of Reiki in this training:

Level I – You learn the history of Reiki, the basic hand positions, how to use it on yourself, animals and others. You will become attuned/connected with a higher vibration. Reiki awakens your intuitive knowing. This is a good review even if you already have Reiki l. RMT's can count the time spent on this Level for Category B CEUs as per the CMTO.
There it is; vibration. You knew it was coming, right? The magic hand positions to vibrate at a higher...well...vibration, so you can "use it on yourself, animals, and others." Careful wording, there. Did you see how they didn't say you can use it to, "heal yourself, animals and others". It's a small difference, but a critical one. It's also so stupid that it's hardly worth insulting, except that it's endorsed by my college. How embarrassing.
Level II – You will exponentially increase your channeling ability (times 4). You will be attuned to use distance healing and will learn the power and mental/emotional symbols. Reiki will accelerate your intuitive powers and increase your ability to invoke and utilize higher vibrational energies. This is a good review even if you already have Reiki ll.
Oooooo! I will increase my channeling ability by four times! I wonder if I'll be able to contact Ramtha?! I love the newage nonsense that is spilling out from this non-paragraph. It has all the buzzwords, doesn't it?

Next up is what I'll learn if I take this valuable, vibrational class.
What you will learn:

What Reiki is and how it can be used to support your health and wellbeing.
How Reiki can be used to support your animal companion's health and wellbeing.
The 5 elements of Reiki and how they apply to your work with animals.
How to approach your animal companions to gain their trust and acceptance.
Hand positions and approaches for using Reiki on both people and animals.
Ways that deepen your relationship with your animal companions.
Techniques for healing animals and others in person.
Techniques for healing animals and others over distance.
Meditations designed to deepen your process
First, can I harken back to a great George Carlin bit about being on the airlines, and them using language to make things sound more important than they are? Can we talk about "animal companion"? Just fucking say "pet", would you please? Thanks.

The rest of the things I'll learn seem to be a bunch of nonsensical claptrap that would get a failing grade if an eleven year old handed it in to their biology teacher. It's a shameful display of ignorance up with which no one should put.

All this for the low LOW price of $297.00! Call today, kids! Man, those Nigerians who keep emailing me about their rich, dead relative should take lessons in financial rape from these reiki frauds. Oh, and just in case you were wondering where the last point was:
This information is not intended to replace veterinary care; we encourage you to use it only as a compliment to it.
Yeah, you knew it was coming, right? A version of the Quack Miranda Warning. These hippis know that their silliness doesn't work so they make sure to cover their asses and tell everyone to keep seeing those "Western, close-minded, allopathic, in-the-pocket-of-Big-Pharma" doctors. The real doctors. The ones who have to show their work, prove their methods are efficacious, and actually help people and their "animal companions".

It's so ridiculous that our profession is associated with this nonsense. No wonder doctors roll their eyes when they hear "massage therapist"; they have every right to as long as this stupid shit is tolerated in our midst. Shame on the CMTO for endorsing reiki.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Movember - The SuperHandleBar

I'm participating in Movember this year to raise money for research into prostate cancer. Several men in my family have had this disease and have been (so far) successfully treated, so I have a vested interest in continuing the trend of kicking cancer in its ass. If you'd like, you can go here to make a donation and help out. Here's a picture of the 'stache as it stands today (I'll include weekly-ish pics of the development):
IMG_9659
Thanks, you all. I'm off for a weekend getaway, and then a letter to Delta is coming and a raving, pissy rant about something else. Oh, and a post about Christopher Hitchens, because he's the goddamn man.