That white stuff: possible answer

Written by Sarah on May 12th, 2013

You know in older TV shows and movies when someone is cleaning a window by polishing off some white stuff all over it? From Housekeeping Notes: How to Furnish and and Keep House in a Tenement Flat; a series of lessons prepared for use in the Association of practical housekeeping centers of New York (1911)

Dust the window, and apply a thick suds of Bon Ami. Let it dry, and rub off with a dry cloth.”

So there you go: possibly Bon Ami.

 

Legally, they are totally covered

Written by Sarah on March 30th, 2013

The disclaimer at the start of the film I Walked With A Zombie (a zombie film with a similar plot to Jane Eyre) states: “The characters in this photoplay are fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, living, dead or possessed, is purely coincidental.”

Oooooh! Scary stuff, kids! Let’s see if the film lives up to the opening credits.

(later) It was actually a solid spooky West Indian set horror film. There was commentary by two British film guys (sorry, guys, I don’t have the video box in front of me or I’d say who you are) who did a good job pointing out interesting things about the movie until it was time for me to head to bed. The most interesting part was the long and storied life of the calypso song that first reveals the dark secret of the island’s most powerful family, “Shame and Scandal”. Mentioned in the movie commentary but not the Wikipedia article (yet) is that it was often used as the tune for songs commenting on political shame and scandal. Pretty cool!

 

Years of Rice and Salt Review

Written by Craig on March 3rd, 2013

The Years of Rice and Salt, Robinson. Yes. This was a book club recommendation, based on the presence of similar themes to a movie I saw a little while ago. In addition to those resonances, parts of it also evoked Hofstadter, specifically I Am a Strange Loop. Writing was quite good, though somewhat variable (a certain amount of which might be expected in such a lengthy work).

 

City & the City Review

Written by Craig on January 13th, 2013

The City & the City, Miéville. Yes. This was my first ebook (from the library), which may have affected my experience somewhat, though not that I was able to detect. To get the editing complaints out of the way, there was a bad “whomever” that probably would have been on the first page of the paper volume. Later, there was a bad “whoever”, which doesn’t quite make up for it, and a “these kind”, which I believe I’ve never encountered before in an edited work. Finally, there were a number of places where hyphens were used where em dashes would have been appropriate, including at least one instance of an appositive set off by an em dash at the beginning and a hyphen at the end.
The story itself was adequately intriguing, with an unusual hook. Miéville drew out the explication of that hook just a little bit longer than was strictly called for, but it was not disqualifyingly long.

 

That Guy From That Thing

Written by Sarah on January 5th, 2013

I finally saw The Hobbit (part one, my goodness!), and aside from enjoying it I also spent some time racking my brains over where I knew those actors from.
My conclusions:

That main hobbit: the dude from Sherlock, but not the main dude. Also Arthur Dent one time. Old version: in goddamn everything.
Pointy-hat man: Bad X Man
Main dwarf on quest (tall) (royal?): mill owner in that Industrial Revolution romantic miniseries Joan said I should watch. Also the Vicar of Dibley’s dream man.
Sexy Dwarf #2: The vampire from that UK show where the werewolf had stickey-outey ears and the ghost always wore that nice belted cardigan.
Main Elf: bad dude from Matrix, good dude from Priscilla.
White-hair wizard: bad dude in everything, often a vampire.
Poop-stained wizard: time travel guy with question-mark umbrella.
Main fat goblin: Dame Edna, cast against type!
Elf that welcomed everybody to elf town: Flight of the Conchords guy!!!!

Everyone else did a guest role on Xena: Warrior Princess because, you know, New Zealand.

 

Hydrogen Sonata Review

Written by Craig on December 31st, 2012

The Hydrogen Sonata, Banks. Yes. Banks’s Culture novels have reached the same “reliable and plentiful” status that Pratchett’s Discworld novels have for me. I am looking forward to getting to some of the installments that have been specifically recommended on merit, rather than having been a good introduction or the latest release.

 

A less-snarky take on Bastyr

Written by Sarah on December 8th, 2012

A previous post on a continuing education course on cadaver anatomy at Bastyr University came off as too snarky, perhaps because it was too snarky (except to my core audience– hi, mom & dad!). Here’s a more thoughtful rewrite.

“1. No mention that you will be unlikely to find any physical structures in the body related to the flow of qi that is the entire premise of acupuncture.”
There are no physical or biological structures for the conducting of qi. Qi is unlike lymph, blood, and other circulation systems that might be studied in cadaver anatomy. I was referred to the Wikipedia article on Meridians, which has “each meridian corresponding to each organ; nourishing it and extending to an extremity.” This indicates, as I also understand the idea of acupuncture, that there is a flow of something vital to the body’s function through areas of the human body that are the same for everyone. The standard acupuncture points, meridians, and places through which this energy flows in the practice of acupuncture could certainly be indicated during the cadaver dissection process, but there would be no physical structures to be studied as a part of this, unlike other bodily systems which may require medical intervention, such as the digestive, pulmonary, or circulatory systems. In light of this, I wondered how cadaver anatomy could expand the future practitioner’s understanding of acupuncture.

“2. The instructor is a DVM!”
A sarcastic point, implying that perhaps this was as close as the institution could come to someone with a training in medical sciences. Bastyr does, in fact, have MDs on staff who could certainly teach an anatomy lab. I was wrong and I’m sure Dr. Love is perfectly competent in teaching, no matter her background.

“3. ‘Please note that Dr. Love is sensitive to your concerns about mortality and the body as a vessel of the spirit.’ Yep.”
This seemed to merely be a particularly flowery way of acknowledging that students may be creeped out and that this is ok. It is certainly ok, but brings up some of the problems involved in having a continuing education course marketed to, in addition to health care workers, “massage therapists, acupuncturists, yoga and Pilates instructors, [and] fitness trainers.” The only reason I became aware of this course is that a stack of Bastyr’s continuing education and evening courses for the general public is distributed to public buildings four times a year. Is this use of human tissue appropriate in the training of people unlikely to encounter or be able to influence physical structures aside from skin and muscle? Is it appropriate to advertise this class to the general public? I also (perhaps inappropriately) felt that this was implying a contrast to similar courses in other medical schools. They also treat the former person with respect. For the thoughtful and compassionate approach of many medical schools, take a look at Mary Roach’s excellent book Stiff.

“4. There is no herbal remedy for exposure to formaldehyde, so you’ll have to wear a respirator.”
Someone pointed out that there is no standard medical remedy for exposure to formaldehyde. Yes. This is true. I was, instead, hoping to highlight that there are not herbal remedies for everything. Actual physically measurable and testable ways to avoid exposure to harmful substances are far more effective. For most illnesses, when a safe and effective treatment is able to provide a full cure and recovery, the alternatives will (usually, but not always) melt away. Post antibiotics, there are far fewer ads for miracle cures for syphilis than in the early 1900s.

“anti-science”
While the alternative care modalities taught at Bastyr are not attempting to eliminate science-based medicine, they often operate in ways that are strikingly unlike it. Ancient medical systems (such as Traditional Chinese Medicine) and more recent American and European innovations (such as Naturopathy and herbal medicine) do not make an effort to change and improve with new evidence of effectiveness or patient injury as other areas of medicine do. The (always delightful) Mark Crislip has an excellent article on this difference. Science is willing to change its premises with new evidence and seeks that evidence constantly. Perhaps anti-science is an inappropriate label for the medicine taught at Bastyr, but science is as well. Does their coursework change as the evidence against each treatment mounts?

“The local alternative medicine college…”
This was interpreted as being a negative, but I only meant it to be descriptive. Bastyr is local and is a university of colleges.

For further reading, there is a helpful overview of the problematic nature of the clinical research on acupuncture at the Science Based Medicine Blog’s reference section.

I can become jokey about topics that make me uncomfortable. I am made quite uncomfortable by the money, effort, and lives spent by people hoping to help who are left with little more to offer than placebos. Many supporters of these modalities attempt to make themselves immune to change, immune to criticism, and immune to any evidence of being ineffective or causing harm. Alternative treatments can make both patients and practitioners feel good but there is a cost both financial and physical, even aside from the vicious or deluded who promise a cure to the incurable or to those with difficult treatment ahead.

 

November reading

Written by Sarah on December 3rd, 2012

Son, Lois Lowry
As the book jacket says, “The thrilling conclusion to The Giver,” it’s the fourth in the series and wraps up the plot lines from the previous books. Sort of. You know what happened to all the major characters, another village is introduced, and ROCK CLIMBING and TRAINING FOR ROCK CLIMBING are described in aggravating detail. But like the unsatisfying conclusion to a mysterious television show, not all questions are answered and one begins to wonder if there was any planning or forethought given to the series as a whole. Minor inconsistencies abound and I was left annoyed. Bah!

The lost cyclist : the epic tale of an American adventurer and his mysterious disappearance / David V. Herlihy.
When cycling was a booming trend and cycling clubs popped up everywhere, speed and endurance races were popular and frequent, there were also people making and breaking records for bicycling around the world. One guy made it halfway and then vanished. A cool story of almost insane adventuring and then a mystery with foreign-policy implications. Pretty fun.

Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: the true story of how the iconic superhero battled the men of hate / by Rick Bowers.
The story of the radio show is almost overshadowed by the wonderful job Bowers does in giving background on Superman and the KKK– I don’t think I’ve read better. Really interesting and well-done.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, Guy Delisle
Another great book of observation and art by Deslisle, well worth your time. He gets better and better, and as always his books should be required companions to current events.

Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls, Sylvia Branzei, Melissa Sweet
Brief biographical sketches of cowgirls new and old emphasizing their bravery in challenging society’s limits on women. There were only a few of the women I had heard of before. There are some odd spots where non-military gunplay gets more of a heroic treatment than it usually gets in books for youth. Cool collage illustrations.

TeenBoat! The Angst of Being a Teen, The Thrill of Being a Boat!, Dave Roman and John Green
Light and fun, totally worth it. Good gags for grownups, too, like all the best comics and cartoons for kids.

 

In Conquest Born Review

Written by Craig on November 29th, 2012

In Conquest Born, Friedman. Yes. A book club recommendation, this first novel is somewhat longer than it needs to be, but the space opera struck me as worth the time. I was reminded of the Zelazny story “The Furies” by the sympathetic portrayal of (what might be expected to be) unsympathetic characters, though there was less unsympathetic portrayal of the sympathetic characters.

 

You can donate your body to anti-science?

Written by Sarah on November 20th, 2012

The local alternative medicine college is offering a course on Basic Cadaver Anatomy, with a special focus on Acupuncture and Acupressure points. A few highlights (as if you needed them!)
1. No mention that you will be unlikely to find any physical structures in the body related to the flow of qi that is the entire premise of acupuncture.
2. The instructor is a DVM!
3. “Please note that Dr. Love is sensitive to your concerns about mortality and the body as a vessel of the spirit.” Yep.
4. There is no herbal remedy for exposure to formaldehyde, so you’ll have to wear a respirator.