March 30, 2007

Round Now!

I've been a little distracted of late, what with genital surgeries and folks leaving the country and all, but that doesn't mean we can't have some fun!

Yes, the latest issue of the Skeptics' Circle is up and around about here.


posted by Thursday at 10:01 am 0 comments

March 24, 2007

Reasonably Idiotic

So when someone says that they want to talk; then refuse to talk to you; then say they'll talk to you as long as they don't have to say anything; then tell you that's a "very reasonable proposal", what exactly should you think?

Well, it does help to remember that person's priorities.

After all, how can you argue with a group that supports the troops thiiiiis much?


posted by Thursday at 12:56 pm 2 comments

March 23, 2007

Heavy Metal Poisoning, Sure; But What a Deal!

So, recently, I had yet another visit from a spambot to the blog. (Actually, they're not 'bots, but humans who have been hired to place advertisements on personal blogs. Kind of like phone solicitors, but you can eliminate them. Doing that to phone solicitors is apparently illegal. Go fig.)

In any case, said spambot lauded the blog (gee, thanks) and advertised a few web sites where you can buy various and sundry drugs.


It was really quite nice timing, as a coroners report has recently noted that a woman who died on December 27th probably died of heavy metal poisoning. You see, she was a big fan of homeopathic medicines, and was very skeptical of white coats. So instead, she decided to buy her medicines from an on-line company, and ended up with several bags of unlabelled drugs; one contained acetaminophen, another a sedative; and, as filler, enough selenium, lead, strontium, barium, boron, and uranium to kill her, too.

Needless to say, ordering on-line may not have been her best idea ever.

The main reason for this is that anyone can make up a web site (or an email) with lively big graphics and inaccurate quotes, close it down after a couple days, then start up another one at a different address selling the same stuff with different promises.

But another reason for not ordering on-line is that your local pharmacist (in B.C. at least) has to register with the College of Pharmacists of B.C. This means that they have to know about everything they dispense. This doesn't just mean what the drugs do when they enter your blood stream, but what the exact composition of the drugs is and how much of exactly what is contained in each pill.

The problem for Marcia Bergeron was that the pharmacists are all a part of Big Pharma. Hence they were all evil and Western Science oriented, and shouldn't be trusted over homeopaths.

The down side of that, of course, is that the biggest bragging point for homeopaths is that they are not allopaths. That is all the advertising they need to bring in suck- uh, cust- er, patients: the more mystical and difficult to prove, the better.

This means she didn't know who to buy from, or how to find a reliable source for any pharmaceuticals. Or what, indeed, those pharmaceuticals were.

In this case, ignorance was bliss. Right up until her hair started falling out; her eyesight worsened; and when she felt groggy.

But then, the pills were all-natural, so it couldn't have been them, right?


posted by Thursday at 5:52 pm 2 comments

March 22, 2007

Did You Know...

... That Proctor & Gamble are not Satanists?

Being ignorant of that fact has cost four Amway executives $19 million U.S.

The tough part is choosing who to root for.


posted by Thursday at 10:14 pm 0 comments

March 20, 2007

Respecting Your Elders

...Or not.

Another email exchange between the Male Parental Unit and myself:

The battle is joined! It is do or die time...literally.


The drugs have done their bit quite well, with a minor panicky glitch last month.

Things you don't want to hear your doctor say:

1) The good news is, you're going to have something named after you.

2) Ah! THIS was caused by EVIL!!!

3) There's been a glitch...

Now the radiation starts. Every day to Victoria on the 0940, get zapped and return on the 1500.

Well, that doesn't sound too bad...

For 37 zaps.

I stand corrected.

It seems this cancer is a bit more virulent than usual so I will be on drugs the whole time and for about a year afterward.

That could be fun, so long as you get to pick the drugs.

Found out the pellet they shoot into my belly costs $1,500.00 a shot!

Tell me more about this treatment: who's paying, for instance? Or are you pissing away my inheritance with this whole "staying alive" thing, damn it!?

We have our name in for the hospice for the last week and a half. I think a week and a half in Victoria is about all I could stand.

When is this "last week"? Does "now" mean actually today, March 20th? I'll make sure to come down and harass you while you're there.

Just got an invite from the Venture riders club to join a group heading up the interior June 23/24. we will have to see. We have booked an Alaska cruise for June third.

Short hops for the ride, I think...

I spent today tearing down more of the cabin. Stiff and sore. Time for a hot bath and a warm brandy.

Still easier than putting one up though, eh? Quicker, at least!

So it looks like things are procceding apace


posted by Thursday at 5:35 pm 0 comments

The Kindness of Strangers


This may not be a comfortable post for many to read. Proceed at your own risk.

The Significant Other went in again for surgery on Saturday Morning: something went boom with her bartolon's gland, and the infection spread from "stem to stern". so to speak. End result: a four-inch, T-shaped incision and being sent home with gauze packed in under the gluteus maximus on her left side. Last time, she had the sister-in-law come over to help her remove the gauze (I was at work) in case of difficulties, but there were no problems. It felt weird taking about a foot of stuffing out, but not painful. About 24 hours after the surgery, the bleeding will have (hopefully) stopped so the gauze can come out and let the body finish healing itself.

This time was a little different.

She ran a good, hot sitz bath, and started tugging, but pain forced her to quit after a minute or so. The difference between incidents was that last time, the gauze was placed entirely inside the gland, meaning there was no contact with blood and thus no scabbing and few exposed nerves. Saturday's surgery, on the other hand, involved cleaning out an infected area that had expanded, washing it clean, and pressing the gauze to a raw wound.

In any case, she called me in to help, and we worked out a system where I would pull out strips of fabric on her second exhalation until she told me to stop.

That happened often.

You know what it's like pulling off a Band-Aid(tm), right? Well, instead of pulling adhesive off your skin, imagine you were pulling it off a scab, one that had grown through the adhesive. Now imagine that it was being pulled out from inside your body, underneath the muscle, through an incision that was about two inches from your labia, running backward. Think you've got it so far?

Now imagine that the gauze is a strip six feet long.

After two hours of torturing my wife, we were both utterly exhausted and mentally wiped. We managed about four feet of material, but had no idea how much was left; and frankly the hospital had better drugs than we did (thank you, adavan!), so we went.

The doctor there did what had to be done, and I would never have been allowed to do: exactly what you are supposed to do with Band-Aids(tm). Grab and pull.

As a stranger, and one who is an expert, she was in a position to assume authority. I, on the other hand, am an equal to my beloved, and we each negotiate what we can do to the other; unfortunately, I was in a position of ignorance which really doesn't help with the argument: "Yes, it's an agonizing pain, but it's for the best!"

And now the Significant Other's next appointment with the surgeon is tomorrow, and she's going to have a little something to say about letting amateurs remove gauze without telling them anything of what to expect from the experience.

On the plus side, she's slept about twice as much as I have over the past few nights, which is a refreshing change for a baker.

I, on the other hand, need some sleep.


posted by Thursday at 5:06 pm 0 comments

March 17, 2007

Fire Up The TiVo!

...So you can ignore the television for a couple of hours.

Now, Richard Dawkins has problems as a public speaker, sure. Like Noam Chomsky, he tends towards the dry. (Edit: I correct myself slightly: Chomsky's a desert, where Dawkins is, perhaps, the steppes. Bad metaphor. Scrap the whole thing and get back to point.) So the first of two videos here (his reading from The God Delusion at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 23, 2006) may not be your cup of tea.

But the second...

The second is where he starts taking questions for the audience, and that's where things get interesting. It seems that some attendees of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (students and staff) decided to attend the reading and stump the author with some real difficult questions during the Q&A session.

Apparently, what they consider "difficult questions" and what Mr. Dawkins considers "difficult questions" are quite different things...


It looks like another prayer study is hitting the rounds, this time coming out of Arizona State University. Until I see what methodology was used, I can't really comment on it, but considering how well the last major one did, I wouldn't hold out too much hope for a spiritual breakthrough here...


posted by Thursday at 12:30 am 3 comments

March 16, 2007

...And Speaking of Medicine...

Off to the hospital in a few hours. Bits of the Significant Other are acting up again.

Damn, but I am a fan of socialised medicine.


posted by Thursday at 10:06 pm 0 comments

Science, Naturally!


Don't touch that dial!

This week's episode of the Skeptics' Circle is up at Scientia Natura. It's worth watching, even if it does start and end with the television.

Continuing the theme of this year's Amaz!ng Meeting, perhaps?


posted by Thursday at 8:58 pm 0 comments

March 14, 2007

This Week Has Seven Days

An eventful few days...

1) Went to see Ghost Rider with the Significant Other and another lovely woman. It's about a motorcyclist who occasionally bursts into flame, and features Sam Elliot: how could I not? And yes, it's just as bad as you think. Tell you why tomorrow.

2) Went to Domlander. One of the folks in Victoria who runs the S&M group Sagacity has a favorite movie, and has decided to have a night dedicated to it. Fun was had by... most!

3) Helped the mom-in-law move pieces of furniture around in anticipation of her relocating to Panama. I think I know what the SO and I are getting for Christmas every year.

4) Dinner at a Significant Another's house; installed a chandelier for the second time, got electrocuted, back home to do a little more reading. Rather humbling, but I WILL install this thing safely!

5) Off to see "300" tonight. I fear no bad movie! As one reviewer put it, "Abtastic!" The SO is NOT coming tonight, as she has to sleep (working tomorrow means waking at midnight). Plus, she believes one bad movie per month is about all she can manage.


posted by Thursday at 7:53 pm 0 comments

March 09, 2007

Now, Worse Than Ever!

There is such a thing in poker as "pot odds".

This is when the gambler works out what the chances of his winning are, judging by the cards he has seen and the number of opponents still in the hand; then he claculates the percentage that he would have to pay into the pot to stay in the hand; then he correlates the two numbers, and if the odds are not in his favour, that's a good reason to drop out of the hand.

In poker, always look for a reason to fold; never look for one to stay.

Legalized gambling has been going on in Canada for a long, long time, and working out the odds at our national lottery was done quite a while ago: it's about one in 14 million. That means that to a gambler, it would only be worth betting when the pot is worth $14 million for every dollar spent. Since tickets cost $2 each, the pot has to have a payout of $28,000,000 before it's worth buying in.

But wait! What about secondary prizes?

Well, with the avarage payout for second place being about $30,000 per winner, and the odds of winning being well below 1 in 2 million, do you really think it's worth considering? Or are you looking for a reason to stay in the hand?


The odds of winning either of the top prizes, even if you tried a million times, is less than 40%. As one fellow noted, you could play every draw (twice a week), and:

"The probability of never once winning first, second or third prize over 3120 draws is 94.39%."

Third prize? That's five out of six numbers, at 1 in 55 thousand odds. It pays off about $1,800 a pop. Not a great way to invest $6,240, is it?

Still, it's a nice little fantasy to peruse now and again... Having a few million dollars in my grubby and ill-deserving hands would be a sure way to bring about my downfall (I'm sure I'm thouroughly corruptable, if only given half a chance!), but then I found out that *gasp* the Lottery Corporation may not be completely honest with their numbers!

And another dream lies shattered.

Well, there's still Vegas, and you can't tell me getting married isn't a gamble...


posted by Thursday at 11:33 pm 0 comments

March 08, 2007

Health Check Out

In British Columbia (my home province), the local government has been having a series of public and professional forums (fora? Forii? Hm) on health care. Now, if you're not from Canada, and especially if you're American, you've probably heard us bragging (in our modest, self-effacing way, of course) about the single-payer system we enjoy.

Much as we'd like to think otherwise, it is hardly perfect. There are waiting times for non-critical surgeries, an aging population, and a disparity between the provinces.

Add the movement of that aging population to B.C. for retirement, while much of the youth goes elsewhere for work and FAR cheaper housing (and paying taxes in those areas), and you have a numbers crunch.

Improved technology has helped many people with their quality-of-life, while at the same time increasing their lifespans, also increasing the amount of time people have to fall ill in.

Then when you include lifestyle choices that many people unfortunately make, such as becoming obese, lousy diets, and simple lack of exercise, you have more heart attacks, diabetes, and knee and joint injuries that are also taking their toll on the system.

As such, the politically right-wing party in power here have been looking for a way to get out of paying for it. That, plus it doesn't meet with the ideals of free enterprise, so there must be something better, right?

Like, say, private clinics. As everyone knows, private industry is far more efficient than any government could possibly be, right? Sure, there would be some administrative costs with government overview, but the efficiency would more than make up for it! Especially if we say "efficient" a lot!


Okay, so maybe not. This has come around as an issue in the United States as well, but from the other direction: the question being asked there is "Why is private health care so lousy?" This was spurred on as a side note to the horrible circumstances at Walter Reed (and pre-privatization, just two years ago) military hospital, but has been simmering since former president Clinton tried proposing a universal health care plan when he was in office. It failed, but the idea was brough to the attention of the entire nation for a short time, and once that's done, the idea is easier to revisit in the future.

The biggest problem of private medicine, as I've mentioned before, is the cost. Not so much the cost to the government, but the cost to the individual. When you know a trip to the hospital is going to cost you money, even for a simple check-up or to look at a suspicious lump or (in my case) a sore wrist, when do you decide to go?

How will you know when "too late" happens?

The answer, of course, is that you don't. Would you, for instance, go to the hospital for a cut finger if you knew it would cost you $150? Sure, it includes a tetnus shot, but if that's a full days' pay (that's a lot more than I make), you'll think twice. Then if it develops into something more serious, and you end up having to go to the hospital, the cost will skyrocket.

And if $150 is more than a full days' pay for you, then the odds of having medical coverage are slim, even if you can find a provider. Most people who are close to the edge in thier finances have let their coverage slip, or decided they couldn't afford it and are taking that risk.

And guess who ends up in bankruptcy? This Health Affairs study from 2005 found over 50% of claimants filed because of medical circumstances (the statistics are a compilation of 2001 numbers). The medical emergency bankruptcy claimants were less likely to say they had any money problems up until that point; and of all the people who declared bankruptcy, equal numbers of medical claimants and other claimants lacked coverage. Meaning when people are poor, medical coverage is one of the things that they give up on.

Maybe they should put it on thier credit cards? Yeah. That should help.

Even when the medical costs are covered, don't forget, there is still a loss of employment for the injured and for anyone who has to take care of them.

Frankly, this population wave isn't going to last. Yes, we're going to have more retirees in British Columbia that paid their taxes elsewhere, so there will always be some financial strain; but it really will pass. And what we have is simply too valuable to toss aside because we're too cowardly to ride out a single generation, even when the nation itself is financially flush.

I've seen the argument for private insurance that includes the "freedom for people to choose for themselves". After considering how unlikely is is that you can choose anything in a medical emergency, I remain unconvinced. This is medicine, not a shoe store. Treating helath as just another commodity doesn't strike me as either just or sensible.

But then, finding sense in politics, especially where some people (like 27% of them) might be too much to ask.


posted by Thursday at 9:33 pm 1 comments

March 03, 2007

Wrapping Up

It's been a while since I did a "Best of" kind of deal, so I'm doing another.


Because I've got a motorcycle to work on this weekend. 'Tis the season, after all!

What follows may or may not be the best writing, but the posts have either gotten comments I've liked, or they've been viewed the most frequently, or I flipped a coin.

One reason why I'm not rich.
Why lesbians are a danger to humanity.
Steroid use is more evil than lying to congress.
And in Canada...
...Our Plastic Man gets used like a tool.
Too cool not to include.
Men are involved in this why?
The joy (and philosophy) of my job.
Invading Iraq Helped! Not America, of course, but still...
How to win the next election.
Fun with psychics.
Sex education among the fundies.
Bananas are NOT for apes!
Life's great mystery - solved!
You know who the real problem is.
More fun with fundies.
Of privatisation and... flowers?
The most popular post of late. No idea why.
Our glorious leader.
And again.
The fall of America.
Showing off.
What's perverse, again?
Hey, Kids! Let's do Dylan Broadway style!
Understanding why religious fanatics are.
Science + Religion + Politics = Freak Show.

Yug - that's a bunch... Ah, what the heck - my ego can take it.


posted by Thursday at 10:00 pm 0 comments

Flotsam and Jetsam

The difference is things you find floating in the ocean after a ship breaks up (or other accident) is flotsam, and things that have been deliberately tossed overboard are jetsam.

What I've found floating around:

The General discovers what's important in blogging, and to whom;

Rob Cottingham acts as a company shill, and with excellent reason;

National Geographic finds new species that global warming has revealed;

And Ross at The Gazetteer points out some of the Rovian Idiocy making it's way north, and firmly planting it's dog whistle in the Team Blue gizzard.

Some things getting jettisoned:

Getting Rejection Slip #200 doesn't hurt any less than #1, even if it's in email form;

It's a nice high testing well on college suitability exams, even if they are dead easy;

As the Significant Other commented on lesbian koalas: "Of course they're gay! Just look at their hair."

And what can I add to that?


posted by Thursday at 2:10 pm 4 comments

March 01, 2007

Another Favorite Philosophy Joke

Rene Descartes is sitting in a bar. He's just finished his fifth beer, and the bartender asks him if he wants another.

"I think not," replies the famous French philosopher.

And vanishes.

You can blame James Randi.


posted by Thursday at 11:18 pm 0 comments

It's Official: Australians Are Weird

Now, if I didn't know how to find pornography, and I was particularly bored, and decided to use Google, and typed in "lesbian five-way", I think a sound argument could be found that among the very last things I would expect would be koalas.

And yet:

Female koalas indulge in lesbian "sex sessions", rejecting male suitors and attempting to mate with each other, sometimes up to five at a time, according to researchers.

There are going to be a few surprised pre-teen boys in cyberspace the near future, I think.


posted by Thursday at 4:16 pm 0 comments

This Is Post Number 394

And if you don't understand how important that is, then you must immediately visit the Skeptics' Circle (itself being #55!), being held this time Down Under at the residence of the Gloomy One himself!


posted by Thursday at 1:26 am 0 comments