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Unpaid Corporate Shilling

Written by Craig on April 16th, 2016

I feel so whorish saying it, but I’ve really had some excellent customer service from American Express. Second-most recently was something of an exception, as they apparently didn’t think that I’d be buying a new iPhone 5 minutes after they first became available, but that was easily rectified.
Most recently, they sent me email about some other suspicious charges they had blocked, and those charges were, indeed, fraudulent. So it’s new-card time, and they just sent me email with all the merchants that look to them like folks I need to update my card number with, probably saving me a bunch of statement crawling. Not a huge thing, and not even the most outstanding thing they’ve done for me, but it’s the kind of thing that inspires loyalty.

Another coinage claim

Written by Craig on November 6th, 2015

Having coined the term “Buddha attack” some time ago, I now hereby claim coinage of “Reflexpect“: to reflexively expect.

Truly Lovely FP video

Written by Craig on July 3rd, 2015

The terrific Richard Wiseman has made a terrific video demonstrating some terrific forced perspective.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Protected Speech is Cool, TSA cares about neither speech nor safety

Written by Sarah on July 23rd, 2012

“A judge found Brennan not guilty of public indecency on the grounds that he stripped naked as a form of protest, which is protected speech.”
AND YET the TSA is still hoping to charge him with something, fine him, and keep him from flying forever. Somehow because of safety.

Nutty Paneer Burger!

Written by Sarah on July 19th, 2012

Unusually, the first burger chain in India was an indigenous company called Nirula’s, which introduced fast-food burgers and chips during the 1950s. Menu items include the Nutty Paneer Burger (made of fresh cheese and walnuts), Mutton Maniac Burger (with chilli sauce), French Flip Burger (a chicken burger) and Crazy Pea Burger (made from dried peas).

p. 100-101, Andrew F. Smith, Hamburger: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books. 2008.
Here’s a current Nirula’s menu, including a Paneer Tikka Burger, which sounds delightful!

Vox Pops that’ll Pop Your Vox

Written by Sarah on June 29th, 2012

A series of portraits of Londoners commenting on the Olympics in In Focus:
1. Was he told about the portrait ahead of time or was he just WALKING AROUND IN THAT GETUP?
2. There’s some good-looking tubers there.
3. Is that a Matt Lucas vs. Sasha Baron Cohen mural?
4. She may need to invest in some fashionable collarbone padding.
5. I laughed at the hedge maintenance but I do want to know how you get to be retired at 57. Nice.
6. “fashion store staff member”? Perhaps he only seems like he should be a dungeon operator?
7. I was sorry that anyone else commented on the traffic issues because I wanted the crossing guard to be uniquely concerned about the roads.
8. So punchable.
9. I would make a comment along the lines of “graphic illustrator? Like the graphic illustrator in the right corner of the photo?” but he honestly looks like most of the graphic design guys I’ve met. Especially the carefully chosen shoes.
10. Is he allowed to speak?
11. “Dasha” the “21” year old “model” with “big boobs”. I’m surprised that a “model” wouldn’t welcome the tourist “trade”.
12. This guy is simply delightful and is so very carefully paint-splattered.
13. I think this photo just launched a new fetish: sexy motorcycle paramedic.
14. But not tennis :(
15. Yeah, yeah, English fishmonger, but look at the strangely beat up child-shaped charity box with the charity’s name removed! Creepy, huh?
16. This is what all of the phone-support technicians wear at his office.
17. So brick-walled garages AREN’T just in The Sweeney!
18. Questions like “how come you’re dressed like a zombie?” Though to be fair, even non-tourists ask her.
19. I’m hoping they clarified because they are delighted by her public-spiritedness and not because they are afraid someone might assume she’s handicapped in some way.
20. Would YOU buy fashions designed by the man in the Darth Vader jacket and flowery parachute pants?
21. Because Beth-Ann sounded like a hillbilly, but Bethan sounds like a building or neighborhood name (classy!).
22. “Ben Slow” must be rhyming slang for SOMETHING, right? (You must read the tribute to the mural subject, Charlie Burns. Utterly wonderful.)
23. I think he should consider being a suit model. Very dapper.