Homeopathetic; Or how the 10.23 overdose campaign will probably do nothing

Cartoon credit: worldofweirdthings.com

You may have heard about the planned mass ‘overdose’ that was done on Saturday. If not then I guess it failed anyway, but basically a group of homeopathy sceptics from Merseyside all took a massive ‘overdose’ of homeopathic remedies in a bid to “raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy.” In an open letter to Boots they state that they don’t expect to find products on the shelves of a trusted pharmacy brand that don’t work. In fact Boots’ own Professional Standards Director, Paul Bennet, has readily admitted before the Commons Science and Technology Committe that he doesn’t believe homeopathy to be efficacious. Unfortunately the very reason that people believe homeopathy to work will be the reason that Boots continue to sell homeopathic remedies by the idiots-shopping-basket-full. Let me explain…

So What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a type of medicine treatment that works on the principle that like treats like. Burnt your sausage fingers getting your frozen pizza from the oven? Don’t worry, just hold them over the gas rings, that’ll sort it right out… And it gets better, as the whole discipline is further based upon a dilution scheme, whereby the tincture is diluted first one part into one hundred parts of water (1c), then further diluted to 30c. You don’t have to be Avagadro to realise that there is nothing left of the original tincture. That’s ok though, a homeopath is able to create an energetic imprint of the medicinal substance through a process called succussion, or ‘shaking it up a bit’. Presumably that’s how they differentiate the intended energetic imprint from every other substance that has ever been dissolved in water. Homeopath = magician…

That sounds mad, surely science has something to say?

Scientific literature including double blind, randomised, controlled studies have found little evidence in support of homeopathic remedies. An oft-quoted study that appeared to support homeopathic remedies (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) in which Madeleine Ennis studied the effects on basophils, white blood cells involved in inflammation, which were treated with ultra-dilute solutions of histamines was later shown to be unrepeatable and the responses that were seen were blamed on poor experimental design. (Citation needed)

Wait, I’ve heard that Quantum Entanglement explains it all…

Quantum Entanglement is the theory that a connection can exist between two objects at the quantum level that defies classical and relativistic concepts of space and time, and that measuring an observable state in one of the objects, such as spin, will give you information about the other object in the entangled pair, regardless of distance. Many homeopaths use this to postulate that the universe is all connected. Victor Stenger explains it much more eloquently than I could in his book ‘The Unconscious Quantum’ but essentially a pair of entangled photons just have the same observable phenomena, this has nothing to do with healing, and the effects will average out given the number of photons present in your average sugar pill

OK, but where’s the harm?

Ordinarily I go along with the adage about fools and money, but this can be a problem where proven treatments are ignored in favour of the homeopathic remedies. In fact there is a veritable catalogue of potential outcomes to delaying treatments. According to one such catalogue there have been 368,379 people deaths and 306,096 injuries directly attributable to homeopathy. In fact there are many children on that list that have died of treatable illnesses like pneumonia and epilepsy because their parents would rather give them a ‘safe’ alternative to medicine.

Furthermore it is my taxes that are paying for £4M worth of NHS homeopathic treatments. Not cool Brown, Not cool.

So why do people use homeopathic remedies at all?

There are numerous sources of anecdotal evidence ‘proving’ that a homeopathic pill cured Aunt Margaret’s cold, or whatever. Clearly the placebo effect is a powerful one, that still needs a great deal of study before we understand what is going on, but knowingly selling a sugar-pill with only the patients belief as an active ingredient is dishonest and, for, me the 10.23 effort didn’t go far enough. Instead of overdosing (on nothing) the group should have taken Boots to court under ‘Fraud by False Pretences’ as they are selling ‘medicines’ that they (in their own words) ‘don’t believe to be efficacious’.

So why was the campaign doomed to fail?

Big Pharma may have it’s faults, and without going into tin-foil-hat territory I have equal disdain for GlaxoSmithKlein as the homeopathic snake oil dealers, however it was clear to me that no amount of media posturing was going to win over the homeopathic remedy crowd. It is their very belief in these remedies that make them work, and if someone believes that a sugar pill treated with an energy imprint can heal their ailments by exposing them to the same thing that is causing their illness then no amount of logical debate or scientific evidence will change their minds.

Candiru – 1 – Emergence

I like B-Movies.

A lot.

Probably more than ‘actual’ movies. To this end my effort in the great ‘Stuporcollider Literary Challenge’ will hopefully feel a little like the b-movie. Perhaps with less cheesy dialogue but who knows.

I like Emo.

A bit.

But as the token emo of the group I have to ‘rep for my hood.’ Or whatever it is the kids are saying these days. To this end I will probably have drawn out introspectives from the somewhat emo protaganist. Bear with them, there will be killings aplenty right after.

Ultimately, it’s going to be an allegory for attitudes towards sex, relationships, promiscuity and gender roles, through the time honoured medium of monster gore fest.

So without further adieu, I give you Chapter One of:

Candiru

Emergence

Gutteral.

That’s the only way she can describe how he sounds. No trace of the jovial lilt she loves, it’s all been replaced by the low rumblings that now emanate from him.

“Please Bek.” He sounds like he’s in pain. Struggling to fight. “Go.”

Wisps of terror start to tug at her, pulling her all the way awake. She sits up sharply, her unfamiliar surroundings adding to her ill feeling.

She remains sat upright, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the blankets of darkness around them; all the time aware of his frantically increasing movements.

“Jon? Honey, what’s wrong?”

In reply he lets out another animal cry, his back arched in a grotesque parody of a spine. As she watches she’s almost certain she can see a ridge begin to form just below his neck.

She feels bubbles of panic start to rise, threatening to engulf her; confusion and anxiety eating at her. She looks around the room, her night vision starting to give her focus, and sees her scattered clothes discarded at the side of the bed closest to her. They remind her of the night before, a night that had seemed to take so long to arrive but had been worth every moment of nervous waiting; moments that now feel so far away.

His foot brushes hers, startling her from her reverie. His foot feels unnaturally hot against her skin and stirs her to movement.

She slides her feet slowly over the side of the bed, and stands. As she extends one toned leg into her underwear she glances back at Jon. What she sees terrifies her. Tendrils of steam and smoke drift upwards from his prone form, his back a writhing, fluid, mass of ridges.

She’s acutely aware that she is in danger, not least of fascination, but it’s just a fleeting thought that’s replaced as quickly as it arrived by concern for her boyfriend, but she can do little more than watch as he starts to lift himself from the bed.

She steps back involuntarily, her legs tangled in her underwear she falls with a crash and a curse. The Jonthing’s head snaps up and slowly it turns to face her.

She looks up into the twisted visage of her boyfriend looming over her and feels complete revulsion wash over her. There is nothing that she recognises; just a domino mask of pain and hunger.

She tries to scramble to her feet but her sweaty palms slip on the laminate flooring. “Please…” she starts to say but the Jonthing stops her in her tracks. Its voice is choral, as though it is not just one voice but many.

“Thank you mother.”

Creative Commons License
Candiru by Gazz Hayes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Facebook Usernames and the Online Identity

The Facebook Username landrush started last night, basically meaning that instead of your facebook link looking like this:

http://www.facebook.com/friends/#/profile.php?id=561529368

it now looks like this:

http://www.facebook.com/yournamehere

Big deal, right?

Well, potentially it was for some, popular journalists and brands were spared the landrush and allowed to pre-register their desired facebook username in advance of the launch. Presumably this was a play for positive write-ups for their vanity project.

So what does it mean for us? Well it will be a little easier to do this sort of thing:

http://current.com/e/90052190/en_US

It has got me thinking about the distinction between the two worlds we operate in. The only place I use my real name on the internet is Facebook, and to a degree here. Everywhere else I am VenomandSerum, a handle that has developed from gaming, through forums and now to creative outlets. I’m fairly sure this is a common story.

In the Venn diagram of my internet connections there are very few people in the intersecting area. This made my decision to use my actual name as my Facebook Username an easy one. Facebook, whilst a powerful tool for connecting people, seems to me like internet-lite, a tranquil zone for the less geeky in a sea of nerd. It has pretty much all the other aspects of the tinterwebs, games, chat, commercials, and the friends in the Facebook circle that I also see in real life, you know, the real number once you strip away the people that you drifted apart from after school FOR A REASON, tend to head straight to Facebook when they get on the net, and rarely visit anywhere else.

For these people the Facebook Username might be a huge deal. Nobody wants to be DaveSmith637, and for these people an alternate Facebook Username is largely useless; their online persona is the same as their real life one. I guess they’re stuck with a string of numbers still in their link, pretty much negating any potential benefit of the Facebook Username.

Oh well, never mind, I got /GazzHayes so what do I care…?

Facebook vs Twitter

So Big Brother 10 started recently, allowing fuckwits to vote for other fuckwits, which does seem like a theme recently, but thankfully there is a reality entertainment experiment that stars normal people and is actually entertaining.

When I was younger I remember a show, I forget what it was called, but it was basically a national scavenger hunt where the contestants would be hunted the length and breadth of the country whilst having to perform simple tasks. One team of bounty hunters would recieve help from the public to track down the other team, who in turn recieved help completing their tasks and staying one step ahead of the hunters.

Finally someone has picked up the mantle for the internet generation, in the form of Facebook vs Twitter. Each team is set a daily task in a different city in the UK, and require the help of their friends and followers to complete them.

http://current.com/e/90145694/en_US

Yesterday the two teams had to perform a stand-up comedy routine using only jokes provided by their friends or followers. Today a set of photos need to be found. Choose a side and get involved…

Team Twitter

Team Facebook

M.I.A. vs the world

Timely news for some, but it makes a nice change for up and coming ‘popstars’ to give a damn about things that aren’t Jimmy Choos or Kompressors, let alone use their influence to bring attention to things people like to ignore, but that’s just what M.I.A. has been upto drawing praise and criticism alike.

M.I.A. is the daughter of a ‘Tamil Tiger’, although she has never lived with him and hasn’t seen him since 1995, and has been using her music to try to draw attention to the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka. Although she never openly gives her support to the ‘Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’ she has been attacked by many, most notably Sri Lankan hip-hop artist DeLon for using the image of a tiger in her videos.

The conflict is an extremely complex issue and one that’s summed up definitively here but in a nutshell the minority Tamil Hindus are fighting for an independant state in the North and East of the island and have been labelled a terrorist organisation by many world governments.

In a recent blog she questions why she is also labelled a terorist because she wants the conflict to end. Clearly it will take more than this but hopefully it will open a lot of eyes to the bloodshed going on in Sri Lanka.

Dumb and Coke…

Facepalm
Facepalm

Turns out we won the war against drugs this year, and the international cocaine market, like the Darkness’ fanbase, is “in retreat.”

This is based on the news that wholseale prices have increased by about £6,000 per Kilo to £45,000, recession be damned. The Serious Organised Crime Agency believe this is an idication that the supply is diminishing under the pressure of their “strategy of working in South America, the Caribbean, across the Atlantic and with European partners.”

These increases in cost have not been passed onto the punters though, the ‘street’ price has remained relatively stable, take that capitalism… Instead those plucky street entrepreneurs are just cutting the blow with ever increasing amounts of cockroach insecticide, pet worming tablets and the cancer causing drug phenacetin. Figures from the Forensic Science Service show a third of the cocaine seized is less than 9% pure, the lowest it has ever been.

With more spin than the crucible this is being portrayed as a success.  THIS IS BAD NEWS YOU FUCKING IDIOTS… Great, there is less cocaine knocking around, this is not going to put off the people that create, cut or even use coke. It’s standard suplly and demand economics, the less coke there is available, the more the price rises meaning the manufacturer has a premium product. To offset the hike in prices the dealer will try to maximise his product and cut the quality of the wraps being sold. The habitual user wants more coke regardless of the danger. The mortality rate amongst coke users rises.

It’s ok though, SOCA have a plan… People that import any of the cutting agents will be ‘targetted’. Quite what will happen when they change the cutting agent to something else remains to be seen.

There will always be people that want to do dangerous, illicit drugs, that is a fact of life. Furthermore it is hard to imagine a situation where drug manufacture is completely removed. It strikes me as obvious that the only surefire way to remove the dangerous criminals that perpetuate the drug industry is to remove their customers by allowing the state to control the industry, generating income for the government and giving a safe outlet for the users, a view previously discussed on the SC.

Los Campesinos! We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

This album slipped by me since it was released in November, just eight months after the release of their Debut ‘Hold On Now, Youngster…’ but I’m glad I stumbled across it. Right from the opening lyrics (I think it’s fair to say that I chose hopelessness and inflicted it on the rest of us) it’s clear that tweexcore has grown up; out the window are the songs where the cherryade flows, replaced by bitterness, resentment and jealousy.

The sentiment in the title track, ‘We are beautiful, we are doomed’ shows a much bleaker, darker Los Campesinos! punctuated by the trademark glockenspiel – “I taught myself the only way to vaguely get along in love is to like the other slightly less than you get in return” – the guitars building to the anthemic outpourings about heart failures.

A major criticism of ‘Hold On Now, Youngster…’ may once again put off listners, as the new album is anything but an easy listen, but in my opinion this doesn’t detract from the quality of the songs; I’ll never grow tired of cheerful sounding tunes coupled with self-destructive lyrics like ‘It’s as if I walked into a room to see my ex girlfriend, who by the wasy I’m still in love with, sucking the face of some pretty boy with my favourite bands most popular song in he background’ all tempered by soft female vocals.

The stand out tracks for me are ‘You’ll Need Those Fingers For Crossing‘ and ‘It’s Never That Easy Though. Is It?

The coming aporkalypse, or why we don’t need to worry about the swine flu epigdemic

Ok, so the media is firing on all scare-mongering cylinders over this whole swine flu snoutbreak. The threat level was raised today to 5 out of 6, which seems to mean that you might not want to travel unless it’s really urgent, say a holiday or business trip. Presumably 6 means only go to the airport if you really have to see of a loved one or need a tie and the airport is closer than town.

Let’s get this into context, this is definitely more hamdemic than pandemic, there have been 20 cases across Europe(1), of which no-one has died. In Mexico itself only 99 cases(2) have been confirmed as H1N1, and the swine flu has claimed just eight lives in Mexico, whose health spending per capita was recently rated 25th out of 25(3). 50 people in China have died of hand-foot-mouth disease(4), presumably from over exposure to this(5), and yet there is no cobra meeting to decide when we should change the threat number.

Tamiflu, of course, probably does nothing against hand-foot-mouth, whereas those extra supplies manufactured for bird flu are probably getting close to their expiry and what better market than a public scared of an over-exaggerated threat.

Besides, swine flu’s been in Sheffield for years(6)…

 

*Can’t get the links to work properly so here are the old school sources:

  1. http://www.euronews.net/2009/04/30/europe-prepares-for-swine-flu-pandemic/
  2. http://breakingnews.iol.ie/news/world/eyauididmhau/
  3. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_hea_car_fun_tot_per_cap-care-funding-total-per-capita
  4. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-04/12/content_11174256.htm
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmHClIHgnRI
  6. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2205108364#/photo.php?pid=30379508&op=1&o=all&view=all&subj=2205108364&aid=-1&oid=2205108364&id=1019065705

Intrinsic racism and the strength of our subconscious associations

The Collins English Dictionary defines racism as:

1 the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others
2 abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief
In a civilised world most people would like to think that they are not racist, and outwardly act with respect towards people of different races. Would America have elected their first black president if this was not the case? Research at Harvard university is showing that subconsciously there is a different story whether we like it or not.
Science has tended to confirm that race is a cultural construct, and there are no scientific criteria to determine race. Despite our obvious differences we are all extremely similar biologically, and to think of one race as superior to another, such as the argument that white people have intrinsically superior intelligence made by Charles Murray in ‘The Bell Curve‘, is clearly misguided. In fact in many circumstances use of the word race is being replaced with the equally ambiguous term ethnicity, as an indicator of the ancestry of a given individual.
Whether we like it or not our subconscious controls our intrinsic attitudes towards others.  Without conscious influence we make snap decisions, especially about other people, using a combination of learned responses, non-verbal cues and body language. Interviews and speed dating are perfect examples of how we form an impression of people within moments of meeting them.
These behaviours are the subject of a lot of research, and an interesting tool has been developed by Anthony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banajai and Brian Nosek that shows the links our minds make. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) determines the connections and mental associations that we have made between pairs of ideas. The test works by putting two words or ideas together with words synonymous with good or bad, and registering the time taken to place an image or word into one of the two categories. Try it out for yourself here but be prepared for some uncomfortable results.
Full disclosure, I have a moderate automatic preference for Caucasians, which surprised me somewhat. I don’t consider myself to be racist, and although I don’t know many people of different ethnicities, I don’t think of the friends I have of other ethnicities any differently than the white friends I have. Intrinsically, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Even as I completed the test I felt a sense of shame at the ‘wrong’ answers I gave.
The prodominantly white media may have to take some of the blame for this, for reinforcing negative stereotypes about different races, with sensationalist stories, however the good news is that with more exposure to positive examples of other races or cultures this bias can be overcome. President Obama has recieved almost unilateral support with a message of hope and change, showing that the potential of any race for good is there, we just need more examples to help break free of these associations.