Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bad Science and Homeopathy

[This picture is from the web site of the University of Westminster homeopathic medicine degree course. It's ironic that the picture is of a drop of water....because that is basically what you are getting in homeopathic medicine.]

Dr. Ben Goldacre, a British physician, writes a science column for the UK Guardian. Here is a link to a great commentary he wrote concerning homeopathy. Here are the first two paragraphs:
There are some aspects of quackery that are harmless - childish even - and there are some that are very serious indeed. On Tuesday, to my great delight, the author Jeanette Winterson launched a scientific defence of homeopathy in these pages. She used words such as "nano" meaninglessly, she suggested that there is a role for homeopathy in the treatment of HIV in Africa, and she said that an article in the Lancet today will call on doctors to tell their patients that homeopathic "medicines" offer no benefit.

The article does not say that, and I should know, because I wrote it. It is not an act of fusty authority, and I claim none: I look about 12, and I'm only a few years out of medical school. This is all good fun, but my adamant stance, that I absolutely lack any authority, is key: because this is not about one man's opinion, and there is nothing even slightly technical or complicated about the evidence on homeopathy, or indeed anything, when it is clearly explained.

Here is the link to the article called "The Benefits and Risks of Homeopathy" that Dr. Goldacre wrote for The Lancet.

I suggest that you read these articles and familiarize yourself with homeopathy. There are many "homeopathic" remedies currently being advertised on American TV.

Homeopathy is great if you believe that water can cure diseases.

Saranac Lake November Weather Summary

November weather summary can be found here. High temperature for the month - 56.3 degrees (F); Low temperature - 14.1 degrees; High pressure - 30.65 in.; Low pressure - 29.53 in.; total precipitation - 3.32 in.

Today's weather: high temperatures will reach maybe 10 degrees with wind gusts of up to 35 mph. And, my driveway needs shoveling yet again. Tonight lows are expected to drop to 8-10 below zero.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Inherit the Wind

I was going to go see "Beowulf" last night but immediately changed my mind when I found out that "Inherit the Wind" was playing on AMC. I understand that the movie "Inherit the Wind" was suppose to say more about "McCarthyism" than evolution. However, if you go here, to the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Scopes monkey trial website you will find that the movie actually portrayed many portions of the trial accurately.

This is an interesting website with comments from Marcet Haldeman-Julius who was actually at the trial as well as comments by H.L. Mencken who covered the trial as a reporter. There is even some short trial video if you are willing to download it.

St. Gasoline

How did I ever miss this blog....or comiblog (that's comic not communist). If you are really religious, however, maybe you better not visit Well, worth a visit.

Republicans - The New No Know-Nothings?

The Republican debate the other evening sounds as if it was really instructive for voters. It was all about who could out "know-nothing" or out scrooge the other candidate. Joe Klein has a few comments concerning Frank Luntz's dial group of 30 Republicans.

In a dial group you hold a little device that registers your approval or disapproval about what a candidate has to say about a particular issue. Here is some of what Klein has to say:
I noticed something really distressing: When Huckabee said, "After all, these are children of God," the dials plummeted. And that happened time and again through the evening: Any time any candidate proposed doing anything nice for anyone poor, the dials plummeted (30s).
This didn't surprise me at all. If one thing seems to define many Republicans, it's the worry that someone might get something they don't deserve.

Here's another:
When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.
Sen. John McCain, the only person on the stage who had actually been tortured received low scores because he was opposed to torture.

One more:
They also hated anything that Ron Paul said (high 30s to low 20s), especially on the war in Iraq.
So this small sample of 30 undecided Republicans are going to base their vote on which Republican should run for President of the USA on who will torture more, who will bring on more war and making sure the poor of our country remain poor.

Way to strengthen the USA!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Musharraf Sworn in As Pakistan President

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf retired from the military and is now serving another 5 year term as President. Now instead of a military dictator, Pakistan has just a plain old vanilla dictator in charge.
In Washington, President Bush praised Musharraf for keeping his word and relinquishing his military post, calling it a "strong first step" toward enhancing democracy in Pakistan.

Democracy marches on.

Local "Healer" Complains

This is some what of an odd commentary published in the Adirondack Daily Entrprise and written by a local "healer" who seems to feel that her clients expect too much.
It has been my experience that people who have chosen the path as healers are often placed on unrealistic pedestals by others.
I guess I too would place a "healer" on a pedestal given that they often claim to be able to "heal" from a distance. That claim is pretty spectacular.

They go to make an "obvious" point.
Actually, being a healer is humbling because when we assist others in healing we must first humble ourselves before the great spirit, guides and teachers, and ask them to help us so that we may be a channel for their energy. It’s their power that is passed through us so that the client can receive what is needed. We are only the middle man/woman.
It is sad that there are supposedly educated people, living in modern, developed countries, like the USA, that actually believe in crap like that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Evolution Journal for Educators

Evolution, Education and Outreach is the name of a new journal published by Springer. The first issue has just been published and every article is available for free on the the SpringerLink website. I don't know if all future articles will be available for free, but it appears some of them will be.

Here are the titles of a few articles in the first issue:

Mopping Up: Hierarchies and the Sloshing Bucket in the High School Classroom

The Five Major Divisions (“Kingdoms”) of Life

Both of the above articles contain lesson plans.

What’s So Special About Science?

Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path

Creationist Teaching in School Science: A UK Perspective

There are 21 articles concerning evolution in this first issue. Teachers need to bookmark this website.

We're Winning in Iraq?

Excuse me for being cautious about the current wave of we're "winning in Iraq". For at least the last 2-3 years war supporters have been saying "we've turned a corner". So many corners now that it's clear we were not talking about a square. War supporters have also been asking for just 90 more days or "six more months" to show success. In fact six more months for success in Iraq has now been defined as a "Friedman Unit".

So allow me the cautious request of at least one "Friedman Unit" before Americans start celebrating "victory in Iraq". And, let's get one thing straight right now because the meaning of "victory in Iraq" has been changed so many times. "Victory in Iraq" means a successful, democratic, government that has the support of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds without the presence of tens of thousands of US troops.

Rep. John McHugh Answers Some Questions

Rep. John McHugh answered some tough questions last night according to a report in the Plattsburgh Press Republican.

"Small farms help us maintain the quality of life that keeps us here," he said.

"It's tragic that families are not telling their kids to stay and run the family farm. We've got to turn that around."

McHugh, who serves about 660,000 constituents, many in remote areas of the North Country, said he also supports a better Farm Bill that will help local farmers survive against major farming conglomerates in the rest of the country.

"Small farms help us maintain the quality of life that keeps us here," he said.

"It's tragic that families are not telling their kids to stay and run the family farm. We've got to turn that around."
That answer is very weird. By all accounts the farm bill does very little to help small family farms. [excellent article]
What's happened is, some farm families got big, but more got out. Subsidies have helped finance the expansion plans of the big guys while inflating the rents of the little guys. Ebberson's neighbor Mike Korth has a 1,000-acre (400 hectare) corn and soybean spread that would have been considered enormous a century ago but is now about average for the area. His township has only 39 families on 36 sq. mi. (94 sq km), a frontier-level population density. No wonder a Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City study found the rural counties most dependent on subsidies had the worst population losses and the weakest job growth.

The Farm Bill always has bipartisan support, so Democrats are equally guilty.

Then this question by Plattsburgh attorney Mark Schneider: "How can you be part of a political party that has run this country into a ditch". Kind of a loaded question, but here is Mr. McHugh's answer.
"I want to make one thing clear; I work for you, and if my party is wrong, it's wrong,"
That's not a very satisfying answer if that is the entire answer. If Mr. McHugh's party is wrong and he knows it is wrong, doesn't he have a responsibility to do something about it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sen. Trent Lott Resigning?

Why is Sen. Trent Lott resigning after only recently being re-elected?

1. To spend more time with his family?

2. Because he wants to leave on a "positive note".

3. Because he want to be able to lobby legally without waiting for 2 yrs.?

4. Because he is friends with Bill Allen, previous owner of Vecco Oil Services, and going to be implicated in the ongoing scandel in Alaska?

5. Because Larry Flynt is going to "out" him? (this one is iffy)

The Point Purchased by Rich Folks

The Point Resort has been purchased by a members-only club, the Everlands.
Membership to Everlands is by invitation only. Each Member pays a one-
time Membership fee, as well as annual Club dues. Everlands is owned
entirely by its Members, who own a pro rata equity interest in the Club
Membership Corporation. Everlands Members co-own the land, buildings, and
all real property, including furnishings, artwork, boats, floatplanes,
facilities, equipment, horses and livestock -- debt-free.
The Membership fee is $1 million, with early-in opportunities for
Founding Membership starting at $475,000. Annual dues of $40,000 cover all
amenities, such as world-class dining, fine beverages, local
transportation, and a broad array of sports instruction, equipment and
outdoor adventures -- all handled by dedicated "Experience Managers."
Members enjoy unlimited access to the properties, and bookings are made
simply on a first-come, first-served basis.
Yea, rich people!

Peru Teacher Fired

The teaching license of a Peru teacher was revoked after he was found to be viewing pornography on a classroom computer.

Here is how a teacher is fired in NY state (and probably most other states). The teacher was accused in March of 2004 and put on paid leave. In January of 2005 he was found guilty by an administrative hearing officer and suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2004 - 2005 school year.

The school board appeals and later a county court judge rules that besides suspension without pay, the teacher needs to attend counseling.

Finally, the State Certification Board reopens the case after its review, and an arbitrator recommends that the teachers teaching license be pulled. The teacher still has rights to appeal.

It takes almost four years for the teacher to be fired for admittedly viewing porn on a computer located in a second grade classroom.

Firing a tenured teacher is almost impossible. It takes years of hearings and appeals and costs well over $100,000 to even attempt to fire a tenured teacher. Because of this, the percentage of teachers that are fired is minscule. Rubber rooms are not the answer and teachers should have carefully defined rights concerning allegations of misconduct. But it seems reasonable that teacher misconduct and incompetence cases should not take years and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to be brought to a conclusion.

An instructive article about teachers unions can be found here.

Is "peer review" the answer to getting rid of incompetent teachers?

Boston - Around Town

Boston skyline from near the North end

MIT across the river

Boston skyline from Storrow Drive at BU