Friday, August 18, 2017

Headline of the Day

Why It's Dangerous to Condition Your Hair 
After a Nuclear Attack

Don't let this happen to you.

Casual Friday: Can't Stop Rockin'

Just two working days til Monday!


"Some people just have a way with words, and other people … oh … not have way." ~ Steve Martin


When to get a second opinion

First, don't be afraid to do it. Sometimes a doctor might say, "He'll just tell you the same thing." Maybe so. Do it anyway. In my experience, doctors called family practitioners are trained to send you to other doctors. 

We live between Yale University and New York City, so we have access to specialists in just about any discipline, and I would not hesitate to find the best. Here, Sheiresa Ngo writes, are the times to do it.
1. You’ve been diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness.
2. You’re not confident in the diagnosis. Your misdiagnosis could be deadly. According to the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, roughly 12 million adults seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed each year. 
3. You’re not comfortable with the treatment plan.
Two other tips:
1. If you had a medical test and haven’t received the results, don’t assume everything is fine because you haven’t heard anything. The New York Times says slip-ups do happen. Take action and call the doctor’s office. 
2. Also do some research on your illness. There may be a symptom you didn’t think was worth mentioning that could give your physician a better idea of how to proceed with your treatment.
The point of all this is that you have to take control of your own health.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Do you have an opinion on Charlottesville?

Oh goody. Please hurry to Facebook and share it with the world. That's who whole point of Charlottesville, isn't it?

I have an opinion on Charlottesville. Would you like to hear it? Okay: It was a media event. It is the quintessential fake news.

Let's assemble the facts to see why.

We had a group of white people known as the "Alt-Right." These white people apparently like white people and old statues. Then we had a second group of white people known as the "Antifa." These white people don't like white people or old statues.

What concerns me as a journalist for more than four decades is the capitalization and punctuation style of these names. Is it Alt-Right, altright, AltRight, alt-right? And is it Antifa or antifa or anti-fa or Anti-Fa or AntiFa? I saw one refence to them being the alt-left. So there you go.

Well, these two groups of white people went out into the street and started fighting each other. Here's a picture of that:
You can tell them apart because one group of white people is facing right and the other group of white people is facing left. As it were.

Fighting in the streets is something Americans do. I first thought of my high school days when two cross-town rivals sent their teams to do battle in a stadium. Outside the stadium in the parking lot their fans engaged in fisticuffs. All of these people back then were also white.

As if on cue, a day after Charlottesville, fans of rival basketball teams in Chicago got into a brawl. Someone named Sierra Sanders explained:
"A couple guys got to fist fighting. Girls jumped in. It was a big brawl. It was humongous, like, maybe 200 people, all just scattered around. Everyone ran."
What kind of name is Sierra?

Here's a picture:
They don't look like white people to me. I guess that's the way it is in Chicago. These people were simply following a sacred tradition in American life. For example:

One of New York’s most shocking riots in 1849 started over rival interpretations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Correct me if I'm wrong,  but I don't think Shakespeare was discussed in Charlottesville.

Here's a picture:
These appear to be white people. After this riot, Americans took to Facebook and CNN to denounce President Zachary Taylor, whom they deemed not sufficiently outraged. Well, I'm outraged. In fact, I'm more outraged than you.

If your days seem wasted

Do you feel that your days are wasted in busyness and that your mind is given to incessant wandering?

In other words, is your life flashing before your eyes in committee meetings at work and your evenings at home friveled away in random web surfing?

You are not alone. This is not a new condition. The estimable Maria Popova explores the journals of John Quincy Adams (1767– 1848) served as secretary of state and was our sixth president. She quotes Adams:
"Every day starts new game to me, upon the field of my duties; but the hurry of the hour leaves me no time for the pursuit of it, and at the close of my Career I shall merely have gone helter skelter through the current business of the Office, and leave no permanent trace of my ever having been in it behind."
Busyness.

At age 37, Adams laments that in his pursuit of knowledge his tendency is to lose himself in rabbit holes of what may be interesting but is not relevant to his larger aims:
"An immense proportion of the time I have dedicated to the search of knowledge, has been wasted upon subjects which can never be profitable to myself or useful to others — Another source of useless toil, is the want of a method properly comprehensive and minute, in the pursuit of my enquiries.
I find it easy to engage my attention in scientific pursuits of almost any kind, but difficult to guard against two abuses — the one of being insensibly drawn from one to another, as I now have from Chronology to Astronomy and from Astronomy to Logarithms — the other of misapplying time, which is essential to the business of life; public and private."
Surfing.

And then he finds a purposein his pursuits.
"These studies I now pursue, not only as the most delightful of occupations to myself, but with a special reference to the improvement and education of my children. To be profitable to my Children, seems to me within the compass of my powers — To that let me bound my wishes, and my prayers — And may that be granted to them!"
"It is my wish," he once wrote, "to fill every moment of my time with some action of the mind which may contribute to the pleasure or the improvement of my fellow creatures."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Please patronize our new sponsor

If you will patronize our sponsors, we will patronize you.


Heinz Introduces New Quick-Recovery Sports Ketchup

PITTSBURGH—Calling it a perfect way to rapidly replenish essential nutrients after an intense workout, Heinz on Wednesday introduced a new quick-recovery sports ketchup to their line of food products.

“Our new Post-Workout Recovery Ketchup is specially formulated with electrolytes and a dozen other minerals to help you rehydrate, re-energize, and get back in the game,” said Heinz spokesperson Danny Paylor of the condiment, which comes in both bottles and single ketchup packets he described as a “great on-the-go energy squirt” for athletes. 

“Whether it’s serious cardio or heavy reps on weights, this ketchup is supercharged with enough potassium and magnesium to restore you to peak performance fast—you don’t want to hit the gym without it.” Paylor went on to say that the ketchup works most effectively if paired with Heinz’s new Pre-Workout Homestyle Relish.

While we're uprooting statues

Daniel Payne suggests a logical followup:
It is a rich if tragic irony that the same progressives denouncing Richard Spencer and demanding that municipal statues be torn down for their alleged white supremacist qualities are themselves closely aligned with a white supremacist-tied group. I am speaking, of course, of Planned Parenthood, which is to the abortion-loving Left what Adolf Hitler’s bunker would have become to fascists had Germany not demolished it in the late 1980s: a sort of holy shrine upon which adulation and adoration can be fixated. 
The racist, eugenicist roots of Planned Parenthood are well-documented, as is the paranoid racial and eugenic visions of its founder, Margaret Sanger, who spoke of her desire to create “a new race with a racial soul” in the United States, once cheerfully spoke before a women’s Klan meeting, desired to “keep the doors of Immigration closed” to those “whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race,” and yearned to accentuate “the better racial elements in our society” so as to erase from the population “defective stocks—those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.” 
But Planned Parenthood’s partisans tend to downplay those unpleasant historical realities, dismissing them as products of the time rather than a guiding principle of the institution as it stands today. Yes and no. You will not likely find anyone at Planned Parenthood who will speak as plainly as did Sanger about discouraging the reproduction of “mentally and physically defective” individuals. But the institution nevertheless fights like hell for the right to, say, exterminate babies solely because of their mental and physical defects. Plus ├ža change, and all that.
But let's get back to white supremacy. Oh.
It is also in killing black people that Planned Parenthood really shines. Around 941 black babies are aborted in this country every day. Planned Parenthood, netting more than a third of the abortion market in the country, is responsible for 329 of those daily deaths. That averages out to a little more than 120,000 black abortions at Planned Parenthood per year, or around a third of the total abortions the organization performs—this from a demographic that makes up about 13 percent of the United States population. According to the Guttmacher Institute, black women get abortions at five times the rate of white women.
If you were a white supremacist who wanted to sharply reduce the black population to make way for more whites, Payne asks, what would you be doing differently than Planned Parenthood?

You could have asked a very old Greek

Oh look! The Donald will be elected!
Did you know we're about to have an eclipse? I was vaguely aware. I even looked to see if I could find some special glasses to look at it. I couldn't. Apparently if you don't wear special glasses you'll burn your eyeballs out.

So don't do that.

You probably didn't know about the eclipse because our media are focusing on The Donald. However, the ancient Greeks had their heads in the right place: the stars.

More than 2,000 ago astronomers in ancient Greece developed their own "supercomputer" to predict eclipses just like this one.

The ancient gearbox, called the Antikythera Mechanism, was used to identify astronomical events that could anchor their calendar. The Antikythera Mechanism has been called an “ancient calculator,” but there is so much more to it than meets the eye. The shoebox-size device has a complex gearwheel system of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels used to run a system that displayed the date, positions of the sun and moon, lunar phases, a 19-year calendar and a 223-month eclipse prediction dial. This makes it an analog computer of great complexity. No other machine of known existence shows a similarity in advanced engineering for at least another 1,000 years.

Of course they didn't get to use it much, given that they spent most of their time arguing over how to pronounce "antikythera."

Learn Your ABCs: Sam Walton, call your office

A. Walmart's imports from China cost 400,000 jobs, says study ~ CNN Money, December 9, 2015

B. Trump White House to look into China's trade practices ~ CNN Money, August 13, 2017

C. Walmart CEO: Trump 'missed a critical opportunity' to unite country ~ CNN Money, August 15, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Learn Your ABCs: The Donald and The Kim

A. Trump Threatens ‘Fire and Fury’ Against North Korea if It Endangers U.S. ~ New York Times, August 8, 2017

B. Former GOP US Senator Calls Trump North Korea Threat 'Crazy' ~ U.S. News & World Report, August 9, 2017

C. North Korea Backs Off Guam Missile-Attack Threat ~ The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2017

Let the trees clean up the toxins

The second and fourth trees (from left) have been given microbes
and are growing faster than the poplars with no microbes
(first and third trees, from left).
Trees can capture and remove pollutants from the soil and degrade them. Now researchers have found that a probiotic bacteria can boost the effectiveness of this, protecting the trees from the  pollutants and breaking down the toxins  from contaminated groundwater.

The probiotic cleans up groundwater contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), a common pollutant found in industrial areas.

"These results open the door," said corresponding author Sharon Doty, a University of Washington professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. "We have known about this process for a long time from our laboratory research, but it hasn't been used in practice because there were no field results. Now, engineering companies can start using this in real life."

Contaminated sites containing TCE and other pollutants can be expensive to clean up when using engineering methods such as excavating or pumping toxins from underground. As a result, many sites sit untreated. This new method allows contaminated sites to be dealt with more effectively, often at lower costs, promoting human health.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites TCE as one of the most common pollutants in soil or water, and it is present in more than 1,000 sites the agency lists as priorities for cleanup. TCE is a known carcinogen to humans, affecting the liver and even transferring the toxin to nursing babies through mothers' breastmilk.

After only a year, the trees given the microbe were bigger and healthier than the poplars with no special treatment. After three years, the inoculated trees were still more robust, and a sample of tree trunks revealed greatly reduced levels of TCE inside the trees.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I'm no longer feeling lucky

Search for it, ducky
I have suspected for some time that search returns on Google on any political topic yield results that are left-oriented. Someone else thinks so as well.

How many [conservative] readers have found that they can no longer do a useful Google search on any news topic? The only hits that come up are liberal. Even the Wall Street Journal does not make it, although minor liberal papers like the Christian Science Monitor do. To find interesting commentary and reporting I trust, I have to go to my list of favorite websites and search on their pages.
The recent firing of a politically incorrect Google employe has opened up this company to scrutiny, and what is coming out is that it is a haven for leftist social justice warriors.


So I'm looking around for other search engines. One called DuckDuckGo has now become my default search engine on Chrome (a Google browser). Don't you love company names in the Internet era?

Which illustrates two things: 1) Google is losing me as a customer, and 2) startups are always willing to take business away from established companies. Moreover, it appears Google is already losing talented engineers because of their beliefs. This is a risky business model.

John O. McGinnis, professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University, writes:
If the ideological bubble at Google harms the culture of Google, competitors will benefit. If it hires less than the best for diversity reasons, its output will suffer. One might respond that given that other companies inhabit the same ideological bubble, Google will suffer no comparative disadvantage. 
But start-ups don’t have to follow the diversity orthodoxy. And for Google the greatest risk is that some start-up will disrupt the world again before Google does.
This is known in economics as the law of what goes around comes around. Or maybe it's the law of what goes up must come down. You could google it.

Heck, I had to walk five miles -- uphill

Every year 30,000 Boston public school students ride 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million.

Desperate to save money, the school board created a contest. Dimitris Bertsimas, co-director of MIT’s Operations Research Center, and doctoral students Arthur Delarue and Sebastien Martin won. They devised an algorithm that drops as many as 75 bus routes and saves up to $5 million.
Their computerized algorithm runs in about 30 minutes and replaces a manual system that in the past has taken transportation staff several weeks to complete.
The MIT researchers had to optimize multiple routes that accounted for traffic, different-size buses, students with special needs such as wheelchair access, and staggered school days that start at 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.
This problem is akin to the classic traveling salesman problem, but it's actually harder. Learn more here and here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Casual Friday: Good Golly, Miss Molly

Just two working days til Monday!


"I've got to keep breathing. It'll be my worst business mistake if I don't." ~ Steve Martin


And now for something completely different. Not.

Postmodernism in the hallways at Google

As you are aware, Google has fired an engineer who dared suggest in a memo the company consider political diversity in its hiring. Oh the impudence.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google's left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.
James Damore was fired by Danielle Brown.
James Damore is an FIDE chess master who studied at Princeton, MIT and Harvard. He had been working as a software engineer at Google for four years. Danielle Brown is the new Vice President of Diversity at Google. She has an MBA from the University of Michigan and campaigned for Hillary. She had been working at Google for a few weeks.
Interesting lines of authority at Google if a member of the staff can fire a line employee. Whatever.

The most interesting reaction for me was this from Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychology professor at University of New Mexico.
Here, I just want to take a step back from the memo controversy, to highlight a paradox at the heart of the ‘equality and diversity’ dogma that dominates American corporate life. The memo didn’t address this paradox directly, but I think it’s implicit in the author’s critique of Google’s diversity programs. This dogma relies on two core assumptions:
  1. The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;
  2. The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink. 
The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed.
The Left has a hard time with its thinking, because it is just making it up as it goes along. It is wrapped up in what is called postmodernism, which"asserts to varying degrees that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality."

Benjamin Studebaker, an American doing a PhD in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, writes:
I take postmodernists to affirm what I’ll call “the core postmodern premise,” which states: Reason itself is a construct which serves the interest of powerful and dominant social groups. 
This goes much further than older left wing accounts. Where traditional leftists might affirm that say, racism is best understood as a systemically reproduced oppressive ideology, postmodernism would affirm that reason itself is a form of oppressive ideology. For postmodernists the rules for what counts as knowledge or what counts as valid argument are themselves social constructs which further entrench oppression.
And so we get this from Frank Lentricchia, a professor at Duke:
"As a professor ... one seeks not to find the foundation and the conditions of truth but to exercise power for the purpose of social change.”
This is the kind of rot that has now infested Google. If you own its stock, you might think about diversifying. I'm not sure this kind of thinking leads to profits.

Miracles & Wonders: Medical tests on your smart phone

I've often said that part of the solution to the problem of healthcare is innovation that brings the cost down and simultaneously makes the care more widely available.

Consider: Researchers have developed a device that enables a smartphone to perform lab-grade medical diagnostic tests that typically require large, expensive instruments. It costs only $550.
It attaches to a smartphone and analyzes patient blood, urine, or saliva samples as reliably as clinic-based instruments. "It's capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it," says the developer, Bioengineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor Brian Cunningham.
Among the many diagnostic tests that can be adapted to its point-of-care smartphone format is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which detects and measures a wide variety of proteins and antibodies in blood and is commonly used for a wide range of health diagnostics tests. The system is capable of detecting the output of any test that uses a liquid that changes color, or a liquid that generates light output (such as from fluorescent dyes).
The device can also be applied to point-of use applications that include animal health, environmental monitoring, drug testing, manufacturing quality control, and food safety. The patented technology is available for license.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Politicians lie, people die

Obamacare is killing people.
"In 2015, the year after ObamaCare took effect, the death rate rose for the first time in a decade. 2,471,984 deaths occurred in this country in 2008. In 2014, we were up to 2,626,418.

"That’s a difference of 150,000. And going up, not down.

"You would think that if the ObamaCare mandate is saving so many lives, we ought to be seeing fewer deaths, not more of them.

"Life expectancy in the year after ObamaCare fell for the first time since 1993. That was, coincidentally, the year of Hillary’s big push for socialized medicine.

"Socialized medicine is better at taking lives than at saving them. Socialism doesn’t build services, it builds bureaucracy. The bureaucracy rations the services it administers while building bigger buildings, hiring more personnel and expanding its organization. Bureaucrats get nicer chairs while patients bleed out waiting to see a doctor. Medications vanish from the formulary while unions negotiate bigger contacts with more perks. The bureaucracy insulates itself from criticism by identifying its existence and funding with medicine. Oppose it and you’re a murderer.

"The world was riveted by the drama of Charlie Gard’s death at the hands of British socialized medicine. The director of one hospital was being paid $78,000 a month. Another exec was receiving $55,000.

"The death rate in America is 8.20 per 1,000 people. In the UK, it’s 9.40. The death rate rose in the UK around the same time that it was rising in the US. It was the biggest rise since 1968.

"And the NHS, the gold standard in socialized medicine, has death rates 4 times higher than America. Seriously ill NHS patients were seven times more likely to die than they were in the United States.

"Almost 10% of British patients died in a surgical study compared to 2.5% of American patients. The head of anesthesia at Great Ormond blamed the NHS' waiting lists for the death toll.

"Socialists lie, hospital patients die."

There's a website for that

There are hundreds of useful websites out there, and someone has helpfully compiled a list of 100 of them.

Here are a few that caught my eye.
  • dictation.io – online voice recognition in the browser itself
  • lovelycharts.com – create flowcharts, network diagrams, sitemaps, etc.
  • office.com – download templates, clipart and images for your Office documents
  • jotti.org – scan any suspicious file or email attachment for viruses
  • ctrlq.save – save online files to Dropbox or Google Drive directly
  • pdfescape.com – lets you can quickly edit PDFs in the browser itself
  • join.me – share you screen with anyone over the web
  • typewith.me – work on the same document with multiple people
  • whichdateworks.com – planning an event? find a date that works for all
  • tinychat.com – setup a private chat room in micro-seconds
  • seatguru.com – consult this site before choosing a seat for your next flight.
  • picmonkey.com – Picnik is offline but PicMonkey is an even better image editor
  • talltweets.com – Send tweets longer than 140 characters
(Digital Inspiration via American Digest)

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Miracles & Wonders: Using your own skin cells to heal

Researchers have developed a technology that can generate any cell type for treatment within the patient’s own body. This may be used to repair injured tissue or restore function of aging tissue, including organs, blood vessels and nerve cells.

They were able to reprogram skin cells to become vascular cells in badly injured legs that lacked blood flow. Within one week, active blood vessels appeared in the injured leg, and by the second week, the leg was saved. In lab tests, this technology was also shown to reprogram skin cells in the live body into nerve cells that were injected into brain-injured mice to help them recover from stroke.

Watch this short video:


It's rather hard to comprehend this.

“By using our novel nanochip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced. We have shown that skin is a fertile land where we can grow the elements of any organ that is declining,” said Dr. Chandan Sen, director of Ohio State’s Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Based Therapies,

“This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 percent of the time. With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you're off. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary.”

It's okay to kill children if you don't want them

Francesca Minerva. Not sure I would have kept her.
This article in the Journal of Medical Ethics is apparently on the level. From the abstract
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
Do you need to pause and read that again? If not, here's a bit from the introduction:
In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.
This article was written by two Australians: Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. Alberto is with the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, Canberra. Francesca is with the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne.

You can congratulate these monsters here: Alberto.Giubilini@monash.edu or
francesca.minerva@unimelb.edu.au.

The Journal of Medical Ethics is co-owned by the Institute of Medical Ethics and BMJ Journals. You can express your pleasure to BMJ Journals here: support@bmj.com. And to the Institute here: contact@instituteofmedicalethics.org. They would love to hear from you.

This article was published about five years ago, but I'm just now discovering it. Here is the authors' non-apology apology for this trash. They're essentially blaming me and people like me for the ruckus that followed publication. Here's the deal: I'm not smart enough to understand what they are saying.

This ain't your father's 1984

Richard Fernandez makes an apt connection.
Chinese authorities have announced plans to create a national reputation index. Under the scheme everyone will receive a virtue score based on observable behavior. "The Chinese government has announced a new universal reputation score, tied to every person in the country's nation ID number and based on such factors as political compliance, hobbies, shopping, and whether you play video games." 
All scores are public to everyone, and high-scoring individuals will get privileges denied to their less fortunate peers, such as permits to visit (or live) in Singapore. 
Among the things that will hurt a citizen’s score are posting political opinions without prior permission, or posting information that the regime does not like ... It will hurt your score not only if you do these things, but if any of your friends do them. Imagine the social pressure against disobedience or dissent that this will create. Anybody can check anyone else’s score online. Among other things, this lets people find out which of their friends may be hurting their scores. 
There is already a similar Western system of shame and virtue rating. It is called Political Correctness and uses boycotts, doxing and ridicule etc to punish those with low ratings, and reward high scorers with talk show interviews, book contracts and such. How it works was illustrated by the experience of 9-year-old Dylan Harbin of California, who made headlines when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read his letter saying Mr. Trump was his favorite president. After than unspeakable crime the child could not find a baker to make him a birthday cake.
Read more about the fun-loving Chinese here. And about American birthday cakes here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

About that aching lower back of yours

Kids, don't try this at home.
First, you are not alone.
Lower back pain is one of the top reasons people go to the doctor in the US, and it affects 29 percent of adult Americans, according to surveys. It’s also the leading reason for missing work anywhere in the world. The US spends approximately $90 billion a year on back pain— more than the annual expenditures on high blood pressure, pregnancy and postpartum care, and depression — and that doesn’t include the estimated $10 to $20 billion in lost productivity related to back pain.
I don't know why it's 29 percent instead of, say, 30 percent. Maybe they forgot to count you.

Second, here's what you don't want to do.
Millions of back patients are floundering in a medical system that isn’t equipped to help them. They’re pushed toward intrusive, addictive, expensive interventions that often fail or can even harm them, and away from things like yoga or psychotherapy, which actually seem to help. Meanwhile, Americans and their doctors have come to expect cures for everything — and back pain is one of those nearly universal ailments with no cure. Patients and taxpayers wind up paying the price for this failure, both in dollars and in health.
Chronic nonspecific back pain is the kind the medical community is often terrible at treating. Many of the most popular treatments on offer from doctors for chronic nonspecific low back pain — bed rest, spinal surgery, opioid painkillers, steroid injections — have been proven ineffective in the majority of cases, and sometimes downright harmful. 
Consider opioids. In 2017, more than 30,000 Americans will die from opioid overdoses. Opioid prescribing is common among people with back pain, with almost 20 percent receiving long-term opioid prescriptions.
So wince and just say no.

Here's what you do want to do.
Moving is probably the most important thing you can do for back pain. When back pain strikes, your first instinct may be to avoid physical activity and retreat to the couch until the pain subsides. But doctors now think that in most cases, this is probably the worst thing you can do. 
Studies comparing exercise to no exercise for chronic low back pain are consistently clear: Physical activity can help relieve pain, while being inactive can delay a person’s recovery. 
Exercise is helpful for a number of reasons: It can increase muscle strength, which can help support the spine; It can improve flexibility and range of motion in the back, which can help people’s functional movement and get them back to their normal living; it can boost blood flow to the soft tissues in the back, which promotes healing and reduces stiffness.
Researchers suggested that a combination of exercises — strength training, aerobic exercise, flexibility training — may be most helpful to patients, and that there seemed to be no clear winners among the different approaches but that each had its own benefits.
So get and there and get moving.

 (Thanks, Liz)

Monday, August 07, 2017

The next steps in our enlightenment

"Now that transsexualism is the new normal, it is time to run a sweepstakes on the next progress to be made. I think it will probably be a race between necrophilia and incest, though the arguments in favor of both take the same form and are very similar.

"Who is hurt by either necrophilia or incest (assuming the latter is committed by consenting adults, that is to say, people over the age of criminal responsibility)? Both are victimless crimes. The hoary old argument against incest, that it leads to a high proportion of offspring with genetic defects, is anachronistic in an age of so wide a choice of contraception. Besides, is not this argument inherently demeaning of people with handicaps, or should I say persons of different abilities, insofar as it stigmatizes genetic defect? (I suggest that in future, the words genetic defect be replaced by variant DNA.) It is shameful that the question of incest should be discussed in so outmoded a fashion.

"People who would like to commit incest but are inhibited by the legal prohibition of it must live in a state of permanent frustration, and there is nothing worse or more dangerous than frustration. Blake told us that it is better that a baby should be strangled in its cradle than that anyone should nurse a desire that he has not acted upon. Think of all the harm, then, that is done by frustrated incest!

"Let us turn now to necrophilia: another victimless crime. Who is really harmed by it? The corpse is no longer a person, and so is beyond harm. The relatives of the deceased might object, but, at least in English law, no one has ownership rights over a corpse; in any case, the relatives’ distress, if they experience any, would be the result of pure unthinking prejudice, which it is the duty of government to eliminate from the hearts and minds of the population. And surely it is better that corpses after death should provide pleasure to someone than simply be disposed of as quickly as possible, as if they were merely useless. What better tribute, indeed, could there be to the dead?

"Once the incestuous and necrophiliacs have been liberated from the stigma that has pursued them down the ages, there will be other groups to liberate, as there are other fish to fry. The work of human liberation from the accumulated irrational taboos of the past must continue, until that glorious day when there are no limits at all."

How to understand science news

So's your momma.
Recognize, first, that it's very often propaganda calling itself science. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in "reporting" on the climate.

Jay Richards, research professor in the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America, writes:
One of the benefits of the recent Climategate scandal, which revealed leading climate scientists manipulating data, methods, and peer review to exaggerate the evidence of significant global warming, may be to permanently deflate the rhetorical value of the phrase “scientific consensus.”
That was not the first such scandal. Just recently in Australia it was discovered that temperature numbers were being recorded in such a way as to exaggerate the suggestion of warming.

Richards suggests a dozen signs to look for when presented with evidence that the world is about to end. I don't have room to list them all here, but go to his article.

1. When different claims get bundled together.
With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that human emissions are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we have to transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different assertions with different bases of evidence. 
Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet, Newfoundland become a popular place to tan, and that wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause. 
There’s a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There’s even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four propositions are frequently bundled together, so that if you doubt one, you’re labeled a climate change “skeptic” or “denier.” That’s just plain intellectually dishonest. When well-established claims are fused with separate, more controversial claims, and the entire conglomeration is covered with the label “consensus,” you have reason for doubt.
2. When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate.
It’s easier to insult than to the follow the thread of an argument. And just because someone makes an ad hominem argument, it doesn’t mean that their conclusion is wrong. But when the personal attacks are the first out of the gate, and when they seem to be growing in intensity and frequency, don your skeptic’s cap and look more closely at the evidence. 
When it comes to climate change, ad hominems are all but ubiquitous. They are even smuggled into the way the debate is described. The common label “denier” is one example. Without actually making the argument, this label is supposed to call to mind the assertion of the “great climate scientist” Ellen Goodman: “I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.” 
There’s an old legal proverb: If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have neither, attack the witness. When proponents of a scientific consensus lead with an attack on the witness, rather than on the arguments and evidence, be suspicious.
If you doubt No. 2 happens, just this week Al Gore -- you've heard of him? -- compaed those who disagree with him with racists:
"Believe me, the resistance to civil rights was at least as ferocious as the resistance to the climate movement in solving the climate crisis. In the anti-Apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela once said, ‘It’s always impossible until it’s done.’ And we are right at that tipping point where the climate movement is concerned.” 
Al understands these things. After all, his father voted against the Civil Rights Act.

And, right on cue, Al shows us yet again how to use ad hominem. He has just released a new movie, saying: “By filling theaters, we can show Donald Trump and the other climate deniers in the White House that the American people are committed to climate action –– no matter what they do, say, or tweet!”

Trouble is, the movie bombed, probably because Americans don't believe his lies.
Overall, majorities of Americans appear skeptical of climate scientists. No more than a third of the public gives climate scientists high marks for their understanding of climate change; even fewer say climate scientists understand the best ways to address climate change. And, while Americans trust information from climate scientists more than they trust that from other groups, fewer than half of Americans have “a lot” of trust in information from climate scientists (39%).
Guess they read this blog.

Friday, August 04, 2017

This just in ...

Trump taps decorated Army General 
for White House communications post

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has appointed retired Army Gen. Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf as his new White House Communications Director.

Although al-Sahhaf has never worked in Washington, he gained international recognition for his role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where his nickname “Baghdad Bob” has since become a household name.

In his first official press conference , al-Sahhaf was asked if he would be able to bring some stability and longevity to the communications post.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I’ve been the president’s communications director since the start of his election campaign.”

Al-Sahhaf was also dismissive of concerns of turmoil within the White House staff suggested by the high rate of staff turnover.

“Everything in the White House is just fine,” he said “The White House staff is one big happy family. A well-oiled machine beloved by Republicans and Democrats alike and respected by all American citizens and media outlets.”

Casual Friday: The Boys Are Back in Town

Just two working days til Monday!


"I intend to live forever - so far, so good." ~ Steven Wright


Going Mad: I refuse to have another baby, then

Oh my, we're all going to die! We have to stop everything and save the planet!

So it's okay to eat eggs, then? Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor running to succeed Jerry Brown, was nearly an hour into his town hall meeting late Wednesday when someone asked about protecting the planet. “I was the guy who brought you the plastic bag ban in San Francisco. You thought gay marriage was controversial. We required composting in San Francisco. They had garbage police out there checking in my cans to make sure the egg shells were in the appropriate bin.”

Stay in the shade, then. Extreme heatwaves that kill even healthy people within hours will strike parts of the Indian subcontinent unless global carbon emissions are cut sharply and soon, according to new research.

Don't chase cars, then. When it comes to global warming, Fido and Fluffy are part of the problem, a new study by UCLA indicates. As the threat of global warming increases, environmentally conscious pet lovers may need to make some tough choices, according to the study. Pet ownership in the United States creates about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. That's the equivalent of driving 13.6 million cars for a year.

Sit on the other side of the room, then. This will be an unpopular idea, but if everyone ate beans instead of beef the U.S could almost meet climate goals.

Turn off some lights, then. Al Gore's home devours 34 times more electricity than the average U.S. household.

Get them some counseling, then. A new study claims every degree of temperature above 20C increase the likelihood an Indian farmer will commit suicide.

Buy a boat, then. James Hansen and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065.

Fewer diapers to change, then. A recent study from Lund University in Sweden shows that the biggest way to reduce climate change is to have fewer children. The study concludes that four high-impact ways to reduce CO2 gas emissions include having fewer children, living without a car, avoiding airplane travel and eating a vegetarian diet.

Perhaps we can say adieu to colds and the flu

Get the blueberries!
A new study shows that a particular gut microbe can prevent severe flu infections in mice, likely by breaking down naturally occurring compounds — called flavonoids — commonly found in foods such as black tea, red wine and blueberries.

So this is good news for your mice. Mice seem to get all the breaks.

The thinking, of course, is that his is also good for humans like yourself. Science Magazine suggests: Eat more plants for influenza resilience. 

The magazine also says, rather ominously for those who like pills: "Antibiotic treatment worsens influenza in mice, possibly because the concomitant loss of the microbiota interrupts the production of bioactive metabolites."

Show this to your doctor, and don't cough on people in the waiting room.

Now the bacterium doing this good stuff is Clostridium orbiscindens, which degrades flavonoids – compounds that influence color and flavor and produces a metabolite that, in turn, boosts the production of interferon, a key signalling mechanism for the immune system.

I don't know where you get clostridium orbiscindens if you don't have any. Maybe in the backyard.

Now to another story I can't really explain to you, although I'm going to fake it. 
A molecule found in our immune systems is being touted as a cure for the common cold. Antimicrobial peptides — which occur naturally in humans and animals — kill the rhinovirus, the main cause of colds, researchers have found.
Researcher Dr. Peter Barlow said: “It represents a major step towards finding a treatment.”

Nothing to sneeze at.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

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By James on August 6, 2014

Did someone say "dangerous mental illness?"

War on spelling.
President Donald Trump, as you know, has a "dangerous mental illness," according to psychiatry experts at Yale conference.

These experts no doubt understand projection, a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

Luckily for our civilization, The Left has given us a number of leaders who can counter the toxic effects of The Donald. We extend our profound gratitude to the following.

Jill Stein. Political activist and former Green Party nominee for President, Jill Stein, provided an impassioned defense for the rogue dictatorship of North Korea. She referred to the negative characterizations of the brutal Communist regime in North Korea as a way to ‘demonize’ them so the U.S. can implement a regime change.

Chuck Schumer. “We plead with you, let us re-commit this bill,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Let us vote against skinny repeal, and let’s work together to improve our healthcare system in the way our Founding Fathers intended us to improve it.”

Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi’s two youngest daughters, Julie Marie and Nicole Lynn, were arrested and charged in Berkeley, California for drug trafficking. Their lawyer managed to keep the arrest quiet for the sake of an ongoing investigation and plea deal, but now that they were taken in full view of the public into federal court for arraignment, the cat is out of the bag.

Jerry Brown. Governor Jerry Brown says the existence of humanity rests on his climate change deal. ~ Los Angeles Times

Elizabeth Warren. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warrenrefused to take a DNA test mailed to her by Indian-American entrepreneur V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, who’s running against her for her U.S. Senate seat. Senator Elizabeth Warren once claimed she’s Native American because she has “high cheekbones.”
Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders' daughter got paid $500,000 to teach woodworking at his wife’s bankrupt college in Vermont. How did Jane Sanders funnel more than $500k to her daughter’s for-profit woodworking business during her tenure as President of Burlington College and get away with it?

Detroit. Half of the eight mayoral hopefuls on Detroit’s primary ballot next week have been convicted of felony crimes involving drugs, assault or weapons. Three were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. “Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges,” said Greg Bowens, a former press secretary to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and NAACP activist.

And everyone's favorite ...

Nancy Pelosi. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi  accused Republicans of proposing a budget that will cause violence to spread. “We take an oath to protect and defend,” Pelosi concluded. “But, that’s not the point of this. This is supposed to be a budget that prevents the spread of violence, instead they have a budget that stirs it up.”

However, the future is looking brighter ...

Chelsea Clinton. Sheer genius:

 

The center cannot hold



Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

~ William Butler Yeats

“Our great cities, a hundred Long Streets, are nearly ruined, ravaged by crime, their population corrupted or endangered by deadly narcotics, all community destroyed. Our boasted affluence is given the lie by the swift and sinister growth of a genuine proletariat, voracious and unruly, subsisting at public expense.

"Our layers of governmental bureaucracy are increasingly inefficient and vexatious. Our legislatures, national and state, seem willing to yield to every demand of a pressure group, regardless of the true public interest. Our judges, or many of them, have turned demagogues. 

"Our air is polluted badly, our countryside uglified, public taste corrupted. Our children are brought up indulgently on images of terrible violence and gross sexuality. Schooling at every level is reduced to child care, adolescent sitting, and collegiate mating: humane letters and history are contemned. 

"While we talk windily still of free enterprise, the industrial and commercial conglomerates move toward oligopoly on a tremendous scale. Religious belief and observance have been first reduced to the ethos of sociability, and then to ignorant discourses on revolution. Leviathan, the monstrous society, has swallowed his myriads. What hope for the person and the republic?”


Give your child some structure, not just affection

My children. Structure.
I grew up with a great deal of structure supplied by my parents, and today I supply my own: I have my daily routines and like to follow them. It makes everything easier.

My dog has structure in his day, which I supply, and he likes it. It's comforting for each of us to not have to make decisions about everything all day long. We do the routines.

In the same manner, says a psychologist, you should give your children affection but also structure. Lisa Damour has impressive credentials:
Dr. Damour graduated with honors from Yale University and worked for the Yale Child Study Center before earning her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan. She has been a fellow at Yale’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and the University of Michigan’s Power Foundation. She and her husband are the proud parents of two daughters.
Here's what she says: “They can get warmth from their teachers, from their friends’ parents, but they can only get structure from parents.”
Adolescents actually want structure from their parents, despite their protestations to the contrary. Permissiveness and inconsistency from parents can be unsettling and provoke anxiety, she said. 
“Being a teenager feels like you’re out of control and you’re surrounded by people who are out of control,” she said. “You don’t want parents to be out of control.”
Here's what you do:
Frame rules around safety. Kids are more apt to follow guidelines if they understand the rules’ purpose is to keep them safe. Insisting they obey for reasons of morality or hierarchy (eg “because I’m your father!”) is more likely to backfire. 
Don’t underestimate the power of apologizing. It tells teenagers they’re respected, and it helps builds trust. 
Stress is normal part of growing up, and it helps teens grow and become resilient. It becomes a problem when they have no downtime, or opportunities to relax. 
Technology should be introduced to kids as late as possible, and be kept out of their bedrooms. Video games, social media and the Internet demand their attention—which makes technology the enemy of the sleep which is critical for teens’ health. 
Also, make them get up at dawn and milk the cows.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Madness: Is your dog autistic or just gender fluid?

I'm pretty sure there must be something in the water.

Creating a swamp, one frog at a time. California is the state where Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law specifically intended to regulate cow flatulence...no, really. It will probably come as no surprise that the state recently set aside nearly 2 million acres (for those who have difficulty conceptualizing what 2 million acres looks like, it's roughly 3x the size of Rhode Island) in order to protect a frog, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog to be exact.

Trying to keep up with California. New York City Won't Force Naked Beggars to At Least Get a Licence, Because Most are Illegal Immigrants and Wouldn't Comply Anyway.

Beware autistic dogs. An increased skepticism towards inoculating pets is likely the result of a national movement that claims vaccines can cause autism in children, according to the doctor, who said she has seen an increase in clients unwilling to have their dogs vaccinated in recent years.

Beware tranny dogs. Experience: My dog underwent gender reassignment surgery. Molly seemed like a perfectly normal female pup at first.

This explains everything. Pets cannot speak for themselves. They cannot tell you that they are being misgendered. It’s important not to make assumptions about what gender your animal is based off of its sex. Animals can have diverse genders just like humans, and they can have diverse sexualities also.

You go first. More college kids pledge to REMOVE TESTICLES if Trump builds wall!

Keep your hands off the planets. NASA is hiring a planetary protection officer with a salary of up to $187,000. Planetary protection officers are tasked with making sure humans don't contaminate planets, moons, and other objects in space. They're also supposed to help prevent any alien microbes from spreading to Earth.

Why don't you just sit in it, then? A Seattle, Washington, councilman implied that a new effort to clean excrement off the side walk outside the local courthouse could be racist. The smell of urine and excrement have gotten so bad outside a King County courthouse that two judges are scrambling to find ways to fix the situation. Councilman Larry Gossett opposes power washing feces from the sidewalks to tamp down on the smell. Power washing the sidewalks is too reminiscent of civil rights activists being hosed down, he said.

Somebody is probably spying on you

"You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." 
~ Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems
Consider:

Are Facebook Messenger and Other Apps Listening to You Through Your Phone? Here's How to Turn the Microphone Off

As it turns out, if you have the Facebook Messenger app on your phone, the mic on your phone is set to "On" by default. Even creepier is this admission by Facebook given to The Independent: Facebook says that its app does listen to what's happening around it, but only as a way of seeing what people are listening to or watching and suggesting that they post about it. Professor Burns…says that to test the feature, she discussed certain topics around the phone and then found that the site appeared to show relevant ads. Facebook denies that it does this and says the professor has recanted his story.

A Hacker Turned an Amazon Echo Into a Wiretap

An Amazon Echo as a potential spy sitting in plain sight. With just a few minutes of hands-on time, a hacker could turn an Echo into a personal eavesdropping microphone without leaving any physical trace. The technique requires gaining physical access to the target Echo, and it works only on devices sold before 2017. But there's no software fix for older units, Barnes warns, and the attack can be performed without leaving any sign of hardware intrusion.

It is easy to expose users' secret web habits, say researchers

Two German researchers say they have exposed the porn-browsing habits of a judge, a cyber-crime investigation and the drug preferences of a politician. The pair obtained huge amounts of information about the browsing habits of three million German citizens from companies that gather "clickstreams." These are detailed records of everywhere that people go online. The researchers argue such data - which some firms scoop up and use to target ads - should be protected. The data is supposed to be anonymised, but analysis showed it could easily be tied to individuals.