Archive for Ease and Disease

A pittance for you, serf

You may remember this boilerplate, copied from a letter I received from CFI Care (not its real initials) two years ago:

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the individual and small group market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on health care services and activities to improve health care quality (in the large group market, this amount is 85 percent). This is referred to at the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule or the 80/20 rule. If a health insurer does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services and activities to improve health care quality, the insurer must rebate the difference.

I didn’t get anything rebated to me that year, but Brian J. did, and he got some this year, too:

Yeah, I got my $36 check with a letter mandated by law to remind me that Obama’s got my back.

Strangely, the letter from my insurer that said my health insurance was going up $200 a month did not mention the ACA.

I’m sure that’s an oversight.

But of course.

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Turd-world problems

Remember when advertising for constipation remedies was restrained, even vague? Well, forget that crap:

Ad for Dulcolax

Copyranter explains where this came from:

Above is a new ad just pushed out the PR poop chute this week by McCann China. Dulcolax is one of the world’s leading laxative brands, made by $15 billion German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim.

The anthropomorphized “Shits” here are imprisoned in your anus, as you can see. The Shits have eyes. A couple of the Shits have boobs. Child Shits are present. One of the Shits, the one marking the days on the “prison” wall has been up your ass a long time. If you’ve ever had a colonic, you know this is accurate. Dulcolax will not save him.

And Copyranter has a lot more where that came from, so to speak.

Now I’m recalling George Carlin’s “Shoot”:

No one ever uses the word ‘shit’ really literally, y’know? … They have other words for that: doo-doo, ca-ca, poo-poo, and good old Number Two.

I suspect this assessment is dead in the water, and not the cleanest water either.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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No, the other glove

I don’t know about the rest of you, but something like this would definitely affect my singing voice, at least temporarily:

Last Friday … Vice President and General Manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans Andy Milovich accepted a challenge to receive an in-game prostate exam while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. The catch? Fierce Fallon’s Facebook Page had to reach 10,000 “Likes” by Thursday at 12:00 PM EST. Supports quickly jumped onboard and blew past the 10K goal shortly after 4:00 PM on Monday afternoon. Milovich is now set to receive the exam during [tonight's] Prostate Cancer Awareness Night. The exam will be administered by Dr. Glenn Gangi of Atlantic Urology Specialists in Conway, SC.

[The] timeline of events will include Milovich on-air with Pelicans Radio Broadcaster Nathan Barnett before and after the exam as well as live video and radio broadcast of Milovich during the exam. The exam and the rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” will be broadcast live during the Pelicans play-by-play broadcast of the game.

Fierce Fallon, nine years old, does not have prostate cancer. (She has brain cancer, which I am inclined to think is worse; she’s currently undergoing chemotherapy.) Ganging up on cancer of any variety, I suggest, has a strong, maybe even visceral, appeal. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to see this on television.

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Of course you can eat that

One of a series of Public Lecture Podcasts from the University of Bath is titled “Say it with poison”:

In this lecture, Mr Russell Bowes, a freelance garden historian, will be sharing mysterious tales of how people have died in the garden, and how you can protect yourself against herbaceous murderers.

Of all things veddy, veddy British, this sounds like one of the veddiest.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Ottawa Five-O

Turning 50 was no big deal for me: I’d just bought this house, and while the move was a pain in many asses, it was a one-time thing. Then again, I’m not a Canadian woman:

In the spring, my doctor handed me an envelope decorated with a cluster of bright balloons and the words “Happy Birthday!”

Alas, this deceptively cheerful package concealed the usual tips on diet and exercise, plus requisition forms for all the annual medical tests I’d be getting from now on.

The mammogram is bad enough. I got my first one before having my doubts about the procedure confirmed, and now I’m stuck in the “Ontario Breast Screening Program” because “free” “health” “care.”

But now I also have to get blood work for cholesterol (how 1970s!), glucose and a bunch of other things, plus an ECG.

The worst part: I need to send little swabs of poo through the mail. (Although it could be worse: it could be my job to open those envelopes. And a special shout-out to my Facebook friend for sharing her “float a Chinet dessert plate in the toilet” trick.)

It’s all part of the splendor and pageantry of turning 50.

For what it’s worth, I had my first colorectal screening in my late forties, and I didn’t have to send anyone any poo. Downside: I had to write a check with four digits before the decimal point, which was worse.

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Count your McNuggets before they’re lunch

Trust me, I do not want to know how many calories sit on the plate before me, so I am not a likely candidate to test this prototype:

Here’s how it works: the device that [Matt] Webster and his team are working on analyzes fat content, water content and weight. With that data, Webster says, it can reasonably estimate the amount of calories someone will be consuming.

Engineers aren’t using solid foods yet. They’re still working with mixtures, but the goal is to develop a product that can scan a sandwich and tell someone exactly what he or she is eating.

Fortunately, this contraption seems a long way off. (Video below the jump.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s easier than it looks

Thoughts on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby by Warren Meyer:

It seems that a huge number of Americans, even nominally intelligent ones, cannot parse the difference between banning an activity and some third party simply refusing to pay for you to engage in that activity. This really does not seem to be a complicated distinction, but yesterday I watched something like 40% of America fail to make it. How is it possible to make any progress on liberty and individual rights if people’s thinking is so sloppy?

It’s not. Although in some cases, based on my own observations, it’s less “thinking” than simple reflex.

I am minded of Justice Scalia’s concurrence in NEA v. Finley, 1998:

“Those who wish to create indecent and disrespectful art are as unconstrained now as they were before the enactment of this statute. Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to epater les bourgeois; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it.”

Some people didn’t comprehend that either.

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Don’t go home with the armadillo

In days of old, when knights were bold, et cetera, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, justifying warehousing its sufferers as far away from the rest of the world as possible. This, of course, was wrong:

The illness can now readily be cured through a sustained course of antibiotics, yet the basic nature of the microbial culprit, a waxy, rod-shaped character called Mycobacterium leprae, is still being sketched out. New research suggests that the leprosy parasite is a paradox encapsulated — at once rugged and feeble, exacting and inept.

One research group recently proposed that leprosy may be the oldest infectious disease to go specifically for human beings, with origins dating back millions of years, certainly suggesting a pathogen of formidable persistence.

Yet scientists have also found that the leprosy bacillus is remarkably poor at migrating between human hosts. It dies quickly outside the body — a couple of hours on a lab slide, and that’s it — and about 95 percent of people appear immune to it.

One less thing to worry about — for nineteen of you, anyway.

Wikipedia yielded up this gem:

Leprosy was once believed to be highly contagious and was treated with mercury — all of which applied to syphilis, which was first described in 1530. It is possible that many early cases thought to be leprosy could actually have been syphilis. Effective treatment first appeared in the late 1940s.

This, though, is the bit that worries me:

Armadillos are now a reservoir for the disease, and in coastal marsh habitats where population densities of the animal can be high, 20 percent or more of the armadillos are thought to be infected with M. leprae and capable of passing it on to susceptible people. Of the 200 cases of leprosy diagnosed annually in the United States, most are thought to stem from contact with armadillos, although the precise route of transmission remains unclear.

I can only hope that it’s not the same route of transmission one usually finds with syphilis.

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The glucose is clear

There are basically two treatments for Type 2 diabetes: a whole lot of tablets, or shots plus a whole lot of tablets. It’s about time something new came along:

Los Angeles billionaire-inventor Alfred Mann’s almost decade-long quest to develop an inhalable form of insulin for diabetics won approval Friday from U.S. regulators.

His company, MannKind Corp. of Valencia, got the OK on Friday to sell the drug called Afrezza, although regulators warned the product shouldn’t be used by those diabetics with asthma or a serious lung disease.

The Food and Drug Administration said it cleared Afrezza for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The drug is a powder that is inhaled. It would be most often used to help control blood-sugar levels at mealtime, a quick puff replacing an injection before a meal.

Individuals who don’t much care for injections — commonly referred to as “everybody” — will be delighted to hear this, at least until the price is revealed.

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You can’t make me eat this

Nobody, and I mean nobody, makes a face like an eleven-year-old girl:

Laney in a hospital bed

Poor Laney. It apparently was several hours after her appendix went south, late Sunday or early Monday, that she actually noticed it. (High threshold of pain, or at least of admitting pain, runs in the family.) And by then, of course, the miserable little worm had already spewed garbage all over her insides, turning a simple surgical procedure into a potential Major Sepsis Emergency.

Painkillers and antibiotics have been brought to bear. Her dad (who is, you may remember, my son) quoted the surgeon as saying she was doing “inappropriately well,” given how bad she looked when she got there. And she was apparently well enough Thursday to stick something up on Pinterest. Friday brought solid food and, as you can see, grimaces. Barring catastrophe, she’ll survive quite nicely, but she won’t get out until today or tomorrow.

Update: As of now, she’s out.

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Meanwhile at the Water Works

One of my two Laws of Travel, which I’m pretty sure I swiped from Caskie Stinnett, is “Never assume there’s another toilet nearby.” Which can be troublesome, since for some of us, there’s no more embarrassing question than “Um, could I use your bathroom?”

I hate using the restroom in the homes of other people! I know it can be a solstice, a place of peace, and secrecy for them. Not to mention, they may figure out that I actually use the restroom. I mean, yeah, it’s a fact, but for some reason asking permission to use a person’s bathroom is forever ingrained in my head as a fearful and embarrassing action. I may be sitting on your couch clenching every kegel muscle in my body and cursing myself for drinking that can of soda, but it takes a great amount of trust to use your restroom.

I haven’t quite gotten to this point yet, though I’ve had to cut back on my liquid consumption during road trips, having discovered in recent years that the rate of bladder fill and the rate of gasoline usage seldom coincide.

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Die, nard, with a vengeance

Not even brass weighs this much:

A West Michigan man is hoping to get an embarrassing condition taken care of — with help from the public.

Dan Maurer, 39, has a nearly 100-pound, enlarged scrotum, which he wants removed.

“When I go out, people do look. They try to be polite, you can see when something’s not right,” he said.

Especially, you know, if it keeps you from walking.

Dan’s only hope is a doctor in California who will perform surgery to remove the growth.

Presumably that would be this guy. Dan’s hoping to crowdsource some funding; he’s raised about a third of the twenty grand the surgery will cost.

(Fark headline on this story: “Man with enormous sack really not happy about it.”)

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As if some day their Prince might come

“Wonderful,” sniffed McGehee. “Designer metatarsals.”

Five years later, it’s a thing:

“It didn’t help that my feet were a huge size eight, which meant shoes looked ungainly, and my second and third toes were longer than my big toes. I would squeeze my feet into shoes two sizes smaller, so my toes were always sore and covered in corns. I knew I was making my feet look even worse, but I couldn’t bear to wear big, ugly shoes. Because I work in the beauty industry, I spend all day looking at people’s feet, which made me even more unhappy with my own.”

So Paulina, 30, hit upon a drastic solution: so-called “Cinderella surgery”, a range of controversial new cosmetic procedures that alter the shape and size of a woman’s feet to improve their appearance.

Paulina being British, she’d wear a size 10 over here, which doesn’t strike me as huge. (Then again, my daughter wears a 10, so perhaps I’ve had time to adjust, and besides, most quotidian footwear is offered in at least 5 through 10 inclusive.)

The British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society would like you to know that they don’t endorse this sort of thing for “purely cosmetic reasons.” And I can’t imagine any shoes so utterly wonderful that you’d pay a price far exceeding any reasonable shoe price — Paulina said she forked over £4500 — to be able to wear them.

Which, come to think of it, makes the “Cinderella” name kind of silly; she was the one who actually could wear the slipper proffered by the Prince. Then again, if it really fit, why did it slip off her foot when she was making her midnight escape?

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It’s lousy, but at least it’s expensive

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sickest of them all? You’ve already heard this:

The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity.

So perhaps we should emulate our neighbors to the north? Not so fast:

[T]he second-worst system is Canada’s while the third-worst is France’s. Since Canada is the OECD country that most closely resembles ours culturally and from a lifestyle standpoint, I think that’s a significant finding, suggesting that even if we were to adopt, say, a single-payer system that would be merely the beginning of the reforms that would be needed here if we truly want to have the best of class healthcare system to which we aspire.

It won’t be enough to change who writes the checks. Under the circumstances we might want to consider figuring out what we’re doing wrong and what policies would foster the other changes we’d need to make.

Do we in fact aspire to “best of class”?

Something worth remembering about the Canadian system:

First, the Canadian system didn’t start off as a federal system and still isn’t a federal system. It’s a provincial system. Second, as a JAMA study I’ve mentioned from time to time points out, administrative costs in the Canadian system aren’t as low as some Americans seem to think they are. About 15% IIRC. That’s better than here but it doesn’t provide the savings it would take to cover everybody under a single-payer system without paying a considerable amount more than we do now.

As close as we came to a “provincial” system in the States was, um, Romneycare up in Massachusetts. It cost a godawful sum of money, to be sure; but it didn’t assume that what’s necessary in New England is also what’s necessary in New Mexico or North Dakota, one of the fundamental flaws of just about any Federal program you can name.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Plenty of nothing, and then some

I have always been a skeptic about homeopathy. Wait, scratch that. “Skeptic” suggests serious consideration followed by grave doubt. I, by contrast, offer sarcasm:

A 30C preparation is a dilution to the 10-60 level, which means that there is one molecule of the compound for every 1060 molecules of water. To test this yourself, dump a teaspoon of the stuff into Lake Itasca, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and then wait for it to show up in New Orleans.

On the upside, such absurdly small concentrations mean that, well, if the stuff has been adulterated, how would you know?

Apparently it’s something like this:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knocked the stuffing out of homeopathic drug company Terra-Medica [in March], when the regulatory agency announced that a number of its “natural” remedies contained actual drugs.

According to Wired UK, the FDA found that 56 lots of the company’s drugs contained the antibiotic penicillin and its derivatives. But Terra-Medica’s product information clearly states that their remedies are antibiotic-free. This is problematic because a number of people are allergic to penicillin, and the concentrations found in the products are high enough to spark a reaction.

Moreover, Wired UK points out that homeopathy is based on the idea that medicinal products should only be present at extremely low or undetectable levels because these concentrations can prompt the body to “heal itself.” This is largely how homeopathic products manage to evade most of the FDA’s oversight because, in theory, these drugs don’t contain active ingredients (the FDA currently checks the drugs for ingredient purity and packaging accuracy, not effectiveness).

So if I’m reading this correctly, these batches of homeopathic remedies were considered defective because they actually worked. Got it.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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The pounding of the heart

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Insulinsulting

Last few days, I’ve seen a curious sign planted at various places along Classen: “CASH FOR DIABETIC TEST STRIPS,” followed by a phone number. This made little sense to me until I hit the search engines and came up with this story from a few years back:

To people with diabetes the little strips are certainly worth something. They cost only a few cents to make, but sell for $1 or more each.

With a markup of up to 95 percent it’s not difficult to understand why a black market of sorts has sprouted up for the strips. On eBay [there were] hundreds of offers for diabetic test strips starting at a fraction of the retail cost — and on Craigslist as well.

Apparently they’ll even take — and subsequently resell — expired strips.

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that a scam that makes money at Point A will be replicated at Points B through Z inclusive.

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The crack of noon

Were I independently wealthy and generally unencumbered, I’d have no problem getting out of bed that late. Unfortunately, I am neither of those things.

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Zombies would starve

The administration has been conflating health care and health insurance for so long that most people, or at least most people who get TV cameras shoved into their faces, actually believe that the two products are one and the same. So questions like this go unanswered:

[E]levating “being insured” to some kind of holy, sanctified, sought-after-at-any-cost status ignores ways of dealing with things that, nevertheless, don’t qualify as “insurance” on technical grounds. We are constantly told that people who “weren’t insured” would use the ER and Medicaid and whatnot. But now they will “have insurance,” so that’s better. But wait: why is that better? For whom? By what standard? No explanation is proffered. Who needs one? “Being insured” is good and “not being insured” bad, period, say all the Smart People. And nevermind the fact that (in a sense) all those people were “insured,” it just wasn’t by an insurance company, it was by taxpayers-and-whoever.

But I went too far with that “at-any-cost” part, didn’t I? Cost is not even mentioned in the first place. As far as I can tell, I’m supposed to think that increasing the percentage of people who “are insured” (whatever that means) by one basis point is worth spending X dollars — for any value of X whatsoever. The ledger of this retarded debate, as conducted by (retarded) Smart People, has only one side to it.

But there’s one serious problem with these Smart People:

You build a movement by increasing buy-in, and “all smart people agree we’re right” is great for that. To acknowledge contrary evidence — any evidence at all — is to tacitly admit that one isn’t as smart as one claims to be. And who here, in this glorious year 2014, is going to admit that?

Which is why I’ve been arguing for some time now that Republicans need to start arguing, not that liberals are wrong (though, of course, they are), but simply immature… I might not always get it right, but I’m far, far likelier not to get it disastrously wrong. The whiz kid can run circles around me, cerebrally, but there’s no substitute for decades of real-world experience. And it is a truth universally acknowledged, at least by anyone who has ever been around teenagers, that the smartest kids make the dumbest mistakes, because they overlook the most obvious points.

William F. Buckley, Jr. had similar reservations about Smart People:

I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.

Buckley wasn’t always prescient, but he nailed this one cold.

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Future Medicine, such as it is

This is happening in the Southern hemisphere, but there’s no reason to think it can’t happen here:

Despite not fulfilling all the Ministry of Health’s requirements, 41 Brazilian community doctors recently trained in Venezuela were chosen to work for the government’s More Doctors (Mais Médicos) program.

They graduated in November from the Dr. Salvador Allende Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) founded in 2007 by former president Hugo Chávez. Most are linked to left leaning organizations such as the PT or Landless Workers’ Movement. The group has returned to Brazil without fulfilling all the requirements stipulated in article 8 of the Venezuelan Law for the Practice of Medicine.

Apart from pretending to stick it to El Hombre The Man, there’s nothing a socialist ruler loves more than naming things after other socialist rulers. Good work, Hugo.

And there’s this:

This week, the group started their 25 day training, which includes a primary healthcare assessment. But they all already have cities assigned to them in 14 states in the São Paulo region. In Venezuela the program for community doctors has been criticized for disrespecting norms, ad hoc improvisations and lack of qualified teachers.

Who knew? Maybe Salvador Allende, who made darn sure he wasn’t going to worry about his health by shoving an AK-47 into his chin.

(Via Fausta’s blog.)

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Tracked all the way to the grave

Yes, I know that those wicked online-ad providers follow me around like a lost puppy, and then toss up stuff on the screen they hope I’ll appreciate, but I am perplexed by this box, which showed up last night on, of all places, Equestria Daily:

Latuda ad

That stuff off to the right is apparently an FDA-required Black Box Warning, and this is what it says in the box in the prescribing information:

WARNINGS: INCREASED MORTALITY IN ELDERLY PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA-RELATED PSYCHOSIS; AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIORS

See full prescribing information for complete boxed warning.

  • Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with
    antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.
  • LATUDA is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia related psychosis
  • Increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults taking antidepressants
  • Monitor for worsening and emergence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Based on my limited experience with antipsychotics, I’d say this is actually about average for the species, though this one is billed as “atypical,” which essentially translates to “second-generation.”

Still, I’m wondering what the hell I saw that would lead this ad provider to think I wanted to see this — and on a page about pastel-colored ponies, no less.

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Traditional medicine, alternative currency

I have occasionally linked to G. Keith Smith, MD, who runs Surgery Center of Oklahoma, one of the few medical facilities that posts its prices for all to see, mostly because I like to encourage that sort of thing.

I knew that they were basically a cash-only operation, but apparently they’re now accepting bitcoin, and Dr Smith, as always, is unapologetic about it:

What underlies my willingness to accept methods of payment other than traditional methods of payment is my concept of exchange itself. Any exchange deemed to be mutually beneficial naturally tends to occur unless the state intervenes. This natural tendency for the exchange to occur prevails as both parties in a mutually beneficial exchange see themselves better off subsequent to the exchange and desire its occurrence, otherwise, one or both parties wouldn’t want to exchange their goods or services in the first place.

As for one particular objection that could be raised:

For those who say derisively, “…you never know what the value of the bitcoin is going to be from day to day,” I wonder why they don’t think the worst about the dollar’s value, given its history? After all, some 95% of the dollar’s value has been stolen since “managed” by the central bankers, so it seems clear regarding what results from the state “regulation” of any currency.

There’s always a chance that bitcoin will go up. The dollar? Don’t hold your breath.

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For lack of hard evidence

You might say, he doesn’t want a pickle:

A man who claimed riding a BMW K1100RS gave him a permanent erection has had his claim dismissed in court.

Henry Wolf, from California, alleged four hours on the BMW in 2010 left him with an erection for two years. He sought compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress and “general damages” from BMW and seat-maker Corbin-Pacific.

Wait a minute. The K1100 series, if I remember correctly, dates back to the early Nineties. Did Wolf buy a used bike, or has he had it all along?

But the claim has been tossed out by the Superior Court of San Francisco, where judge James J McBride ruled the plaintiff did not present enough supporting evidence.

[insert "kickstand" joke here]

(Via Autoblog.)

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Honey, my bracket hurts

Some things, they say, practically sell themselves. This is not one of them:

March Vasness from BadNewspaper.com

(Another Bad Newspaper special — and timely, too!)

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Five Mississippi

The “five-second rule” will not die, and this is one reason why:

Biology students at Aston University in the UK monitored how quickly E. coli and common bacteria spread from surfaces to food such as toast (butter side down, no doubt), pasta and sticky sweets — with time being a significant factor in the transfer of germs.

Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time according to the findings.

There is, however, a variable that must be taken into account:

The type of flooring the food has been dropped on has an effect, with bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact for more than five seconds.

This, of course, contradicts research from a couple of years ago, which supports my ongoing hypothesis that Everything We Know Is, Or Will Be, Wrong.

(Via The Glittering Eye.)

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One of those diastolical schemes

This tissue of organic fertilizer, with the absurd (but guaranteed click-bait) title “1 weird food that KILLS blood pressure,” showed up 14 times in my email box yesterday:

“You’re going to have a stroke or a heart attack before you leave this building.”

That’s what the nurse told my dad.

She had just checked his blood pressure and it was a deadly 155/90.

When I heard the news, my mind raced back to my own blood pressure scare just a few short years before.

Thankfully, after some frantic research, I had stumbled upon an all-natural blood pressure fix that normalized my blood pressure in a matter of weeks.

Which wouldn’t help someone about to leave the building, of course, but hey, this is spam; you’re not supposed to notice the contradictions.

Incidentally, I’ve been occasionally as high as 155/90; last I looked, I wasn’t dead, or anything close to it.

I remember when they told my dad he had six months to live, tops. And sure enough, six years later, that’s what he had.

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A puff of magical non-smoke

There’s a dealer in e-cigarettes down the road about a mile. Their presence affects me not a whit. Now there’s another one about two miles to the south, which apparently hired some seeming derelict to harangue smokers in the middle of the road last Wednesday, but that’s another story; still, apart from that bit of performance art, their presence affects me not a whit.

The half-whits in Los Angeles, meanwhile, would like to see such things banned, and there’s only one logical explanation for their behavior:

Primitive peoples who relied on magic rather than science to explain how the world works often believed in what is known as “sympathetic magic” — the idea that if item A looks like item B, that means A either shares B’s traits or gives you actual power over B… And belief in sympathetic magic appears to be enjoying a renaissance among those who oppose “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs,” basically on the grounds that a battery-operated metal tube emitting water vapor looks like a burning tobacco cigarette emitting cancerous smoke, ergo it must have the same disease-inducing power as said tobacco cigarette, right?

Or at least deserves the same stigma. Consider this week, when the Los Angeles City Council voted to treat e-cigs exactly as regular cigarettes by banning the use of e-cig water vapor wherever tobacco smoke has already been banned.

Then again, this is Los Angeles, where the highest-paid representatives of the city’s best-known industry spend much of their spare time complaining about income inequality. There’s got to be some supernatural explanation for that.

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I might have known

Every month, it’s a new story, simply because health writers always need something to write about, and because their readers, or a substantial percentage thereof, are just this side of full-bore hypochondria. The current Amazing Revelation is that unless you have an actual deficiency, you probably don’t need to take vitamins.

I was in Target last evening, picking up a couple of prescriptions and, yes, a bottle of a particular vitamin which, says the doctor, I somehow don’t get enough of. Usually I pay cash for such stuff, but today I whipped out the Visa, and as always, I scrutinized the receipt when I got home.

An X in the right column, apparently, indicates a “health item.” Both prescriptions were deemed health items. The vitamin, which was labeled “Health-Beauty-Cosmetics,” was not. Maybe I’m reading too much into this — or maybe I need to put more things on plastic.

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Where have all the Lortabs gone?

Long time disappearing, it would seem:

The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus reports that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the California Board of Pharmacy are investigating the disappearance of prescription pain meds from four stores in California.

The DEA served the stores with warrants almost a year ago after learning about prescription drugs like Vicodin that were not present and accounted for.

The company now faces up to 2,973 separate violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act because its records don’t match the actual inventory of the drugs in question. CVS could be forced to pay upwards of $29 million in penalties for these possible violations.

Apparently they’re not going out the door a few at a time, either:

The DEA investigation has been going on since 2012, when a DEA investigator learned of missing hydrocodone pills from a store near Sacramento. A pharmacy worker at the store eventually admitted to her employers that she had stolen some 20,000 pills.

Checking the temperature of other stores in the region, the investigator looked through the records of other CVS stores in the area and found 16,000 pills missing from one CVS; 11,000 from another and two additional stores with around 5,000 missing pills each.

The cynic in me goes “Harrumph,” and asks “Where was Walgreens during all this?” In their own little bit of trouble, it seems.

I have to figure that interdiction of drugs is a complete waste of time, if only because supply restrictions have not resulted in higher prices: last time I picked up any of these tabs, I paid something like $2.90 for fourteen of them.

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