Male privilege in action

This spring, I haven’t done a whole lot of relaxing in the sun: the weather has seen to it that I am none too relaxed, and, well, there’s hardly any sun. So I haven’t had a whole lot of odd moments to look over my personal physical plant — not that this matters greatly, since there’s a full-length mirror in the hallway and I pass it often enough to notice that I’m still walking more or less upright.

So I’m pulling on a pair of sandals, my hand passes over my shin, and it dawns on me: this leg (it was the left one) is utterly hairless. I check the other: ditto. Apparently hair has stopped growing everywhere below the knee. It’s not like I make a point of shaving this particular zone, either; I think I’ve taken a razor to my legs three times in the last two decades, mostly for purposes of costumery. It’s like Hair Central just can’t be bothered. I can, of course, believe that, since no effort has ever been made to fill the ever-widening bald spot on top of my head.

In women, this particular phenomenon can apparently be a by-product of menopause, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the explanation that works for me, given my lack of feminine hardware.

So I’m working with the theory that it’s some combination of drugs and hormonal changes, and I’ll probably go with that, if only because I can’t see any point to sidling up to a woman my age and asking her if she still shaves.

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Serial faker

You saw this in last week’s QOTW, from the editor of the Lancet:

The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours.

If your immediate response was “Yeah? Name one,” here’s one:

In April of 2000, the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia published a letter to its editor from Peter Kranke and two colleagues that was fairly dripping with sarcasm. The trio of academic anesthesiologists took aim at an article published by a Japanese colleague named Yoshitaka Fujii, whose data on a drug to prevent nausea and vomiting after surgery were, they wrote, “incredibly nice.”

In the language of science, calling results “incredibly nice” is not a compliment — it’s tantamount to accusing a researcher of being cavalier, or even of fabricating findings.

“Incredible,” after all, is the opposite of “credible.”

But rather than heed the warning, the journal, Anesthesia & Analgesia, punted. It published the letter to the editor, together with an explanation from Fujii, which asked, among other things, “how much evidence is required to provide adequate proof?” In other words, “Don’t believe me? Tough.”

This is the “double-down” technique made famous by dozens of really inept politicians. And Fujii stood his ground, until:

Over the next two years, it became clear that he had fabricated much of his research — most of it, in fact. Today he stands alone as the record-holder for most retractions by a single author, at a breathtaking 183, representing roughly 7 percent of all retracted papers between 1980 and 2011. His story represents a dramatic fall from grace, but also the arrival of a new dimension to scholarly publishing: Statistical tools that can sniff out fraud, and the “cops” that are willing to use them.

Speaking of statistics, here’s one: if Fujii’s 183 withdrawn papers represent only 7 percent of the retractions, there were something like 2,600 papers retracted in those twenty-one years. That’s a lot of backpedaling.

(Via @pourmecoffee.)

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As the years go by

The clock keeps ticking, until such time as it stops altogether:

How getting old sucks is perfectly obvious: your body starts to fall off. And sometimes, and therefore, your mind too. And it’s simultaneously happening to all your friends. Nature is through with you and starts looking for a way to kill you. And it is perfectly clear to you that it is not a matter of if, but when, and how, and how bad. From now on you’ll be occupied with tossing parts of yourself you can live without to Captain Hook’s crocodile to postpone the inevitable; then, you’ll be smashing the crocodile in the snout with your rifle butt as its bad breath engulfs you. It’s the price of life. And it’s amazing to arrive at the threshold of old age and discover how very little of a dent the triumphs of science have made in it. Okay, more of us now make it to our three score and ten. And then, if not before, the shit starts hitting the fan, right on schedule. Knees are replaced, stents put in, breasts and bladders turn cancerous …

I’m not particularly concerned with efforts to kill me, except to the extent that I’m aware that one of them will eventually succeed. The skies have been taking potshots at me pretty much this entire damn month.

Still, one contemplates matters other than one’s eventual demise:

What’s more amazing to discover, though, is that it isn’t all loss and fear. If you have your mind. If you have your mind, it becomes like a study glowing with burnishing lamplight, with a deep, comfortable chair, with shelves of books on all sides receding into the darkness of the infinite. As you sit in that chair you have a magical arm that can reach out past Alpha Cygni in a languid gesture and pluck just the right apple from the farthest twig of the great tree.

Those who don’t have their minds, of course, will eventually have to retire from political office.

I remember coming back from the Monday grocery run — delayed from Saturday due to inclement weather — and thinking: Remember how Rainbow Dash memorizes what’s on the ground while she’s flying? I need some way to learn where all the new potholes are.

Obviously I’m not completely insane. Yet. The morning’s panic attack, however, makes me wonder if I’ve started on the downhill slope.

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Cheesy suspension parts

Perhaps even dangerously cheesy:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How much deos it to fix a 2004 Nissan queso axle?

Truth be told, I would be surprised if the garage in fact has any cheese at all.

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Is this not what you asked for?

I mean, that’s what you said, isn’t it?

I swear, these boys are so damn finicky.

This generation of Hijet seems like a shrunken Toyota Previa: rear-wheel drive, engine somewhere in the middle. It could also be had as a panel van, a pickup truck, or as a bare chassis on which you’d install your own box.

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A white lab coat of enamel

The Z Man, for one, welcomes our new mechanized practitioners of medicine:

It seems to me that one place where the robot future should be a reality is in basic medical care. Instead of paying an arm and a leg for disinterested humans to act as a go between, let the patients talk to the robots direct. A mall kiosk could be used for blood pressure, urine and blood work. While you’re there you answer questions on a touchscreen. A week later the robot e-mails you the results and any recommendations.

Of course, the robot would also have access to your DNA. As we march into the humanless future, DNA will become the touchstone of medical science. Connecting the dots between genes and a wide range of diseases is a data problem, in most cases. Cheap collection devices in public places means masses of data to sort of collate.

Robot care would inevitably be cheaper and that means more people would get regular checkups by their local neighborhood robot doctor. If this sort of service were $50 a shot, most people would do it twice a year. Extend the services to things like flu shots, and nuisance things like colds and allergies and most of your basic care could be done on the cheap by the machines.

And if there’s one thing that’s not happening now, it’s basic care done on the cheap:

Of course, none of this is going to happen because the medical rackets are neatly aligned with the ruling liberal democrats. America does not have a government run system like Britain; it’s more of a partnership between the industry and the state. That way, we get the worst of both worlds. On the one hand there’s the avaricious private suppliers and on the other the mindless idiocy of government.

Yeah, but Big Business is generally happy to operate under Uncle’s thumb: they know that Uncle can sweep away competitors with a flick of his wrist — preferably his other wrist, but that’s the chance you have to take.

I’m fond of pointing out that we have all around us one of the greatest health care system on earth. American veterinarian medicine is better than what most humans enjoy on earth. It’s also cheap and plentiful. That’s because it is largely government free and parasitic lawyer free. Maybe when the robots take over, they can just kill all the lawyers and bureaucrats. Then maybe medicine will because a normal business again.

Dick the Butcher, your update is ready.

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Perhaps meant for each other

Two souls with a single thought, however far apart:

Text from Calvin Harris about scissors

Text from Taylor Swift about scissors

Of course they’re dating.

(Via TSwiftDaily.)

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And soddenly

It’s the rainiest month ever — over eighteen inches with nearly a full week to go — and if I’m not actually drowning, I’m not taking it well either.

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Strange search-engine queries (486)

Things are apt to be even stranger for a couple of weeks, as we switch over to a new analytical system; however, we will continue to try to bring you, as we always have, the best of the worst.

Brain bug “Brain sucking” erotic:  Are you sure you didn’t mean “erratic”?

deadline 627 blogorrhea:  Well, then, it’s a good thing we’re only at 5/25.

transmission coolant line serviced now having shift problems:  You’ve heard that phrase “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another”? This is another.

economics At Fenway Park home of Boston Red Sox seating is limited to 34,000. Hence the number of tickets issued is fixed at this figure:  This is Captain Obvious reporting for SportsCenter.

its beautiful:  Yes, Fenway Park has its charms.

i was tortured by the pygmy love queen mp3:  A short-term relationship, I presume.

Taiwan Chat Meet Girls Meet Boys Make Friends Find Love…  Ah, if only it were that simple. (See “pygmy love queen,” supra.)

what was one of the advantages of western civilization:  It was reasonably well-mannered, perhaps too much so to thwart the barbarians at the gate.

your a curator of a museum. the museum is running out of funds-you decide to increase or decrease admission prices:  We’ll file this under “Western Civilization Problems.”

come who is thirty:  Certainly not I.

chevy van song crap:  A lot of those old Chevy vans were crap, and many of them were used to haul crap.

who has the price list for chaz on charles:  Did you check with Chuck?

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No Schlitz, Sherlock

The problem with beer commercials is that they’re aimed at guys who fancy themselves in beer commercials, which may do wonders for planting an association but which ignores (we won’t suggest degrades) roughly half the species. This sort of thing worked back in Don Draper’s day. Today, though, it apparently takes technotrickery to try to get women interested in the product:

How it works:

The campaign by advertising agency Philipp und Keuntje, Hamburg, Germany, creates personalised content for viewers, fabricated from 70 unique videos. Additionally, when the ad identifies men, or those who it deems underage, it will tell them to keep on walking.

The installation identifies commuters via a built in camera coupled with facial recognition technology.

Possible downside: if this brand catches on as, say, the Official Beer of Women, the sort of guys who fancy themselves in beer commercials will likely spurn it forevermore.

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A little more than minor housekeeping

With SiteMeter in free fall from once-useful utility to apparent vendor of malware, I have opted to remove their code from the blog portion of this site. (This leaves about 8,000 static pages which will have to be changed manually, scheduled for When I Get Around To It.) If you’re coming into a current page, you should no longer have to deal with attempted redirects to vindicosuite.com. For the time being, I have switched to StatCounter, which in its WordPress plugin form does not display in the sidebar. The pricing is about the same, and StatCounter has a couple of features I’d wanted, most notably an integration with Google’s Webmaster Tools.

I have also had a few issues with the comment-subscription routine, which you may remember; I have juggled a couple of things, installed a new subscription manager, and I’m thinking there’s a slight chance that it might actually be working. If you’re not getting your notifications, please advise.

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Synths and sensibility

This Fark blurb caught my eye last night: “Happy Birthday to Robert Moog. Stand up and give him a sine wave”.

And this is what it brought me:

Featured: a newly constructed exact duplicate of the Moog Modular Synthesizer from the middle Sixties, as used by Keith Emerson. Turn it up loud and scare the family pets.

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Apply Miskatonic as needed

InStyle.com has a little slideshow called “The Weird and Wonderful Past of the Hair Dryer,” from which I have plucked this one item for your dining and dancing pleasure:

1936 hair dryer

Of this particular model, they say:

Alien abduction, or hair styling session? This model, showcased at the 1936 Hair and Beauty Fair in London, featured a series of heat-radiating rods to completely cover the head.

If your stylist should resemble Ithaqua the Wind Walker, you perhaps should try another salon.

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A sort of hands-off policy

Robert Stacy McCain, who was once a college-age lad himself, offers advice to the present-day generation:

It is easier for many young women nowadays to express craven sexual lust than to admit their actual desire to be loved, and I think a lot of young guys are confused by these mixed messages. As religious morality has waned, and as the “script” of romantic custom has been dissolved by an acidic postmodern cynicism, many youth simply don’t know how to negotiate their male-female relationships in what we adults would consider a reasonable manner.

Therefore, I’d tell a young guy who is “on the hunt,” so to speak, to consider that it is better to lose out on an opportunity to “score,” if he cannot “score” on a basis of honesty. Don’t get yourself into a situation where there is confusion as to whether it’s friendship, romance or just straight-out carnal lust. If you think a girl is getting the wrong idea about the transaction, better to tell her the blunt truth and risk scaring her off, than to “lead her on” (to use an old-fashioned phrase) with romantic dreams you must eventually shatter.

Love is a contact sport. Severe emotional injuries occur routinely. If you can’t play the game by fair rules, you’d be better off staying on the sidelines.

Having never really been on the receiving end of “craven sexual lust,” at least not to the extent that I developed any reliable means of recognizing it in the first place, I can’t really just sit here and nod; but I can agree — indeed, I must agree — that it’s better to forgo that extra notch on the headboard if you’re not absolutely certain of the mental states, both yours and hers, involved. Dealing with a brief period of cornflower hue in the scrotal region is far better than dealing with legal briefs.

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Dole it out

It’s hard to imagine — though, unfortunately, not hard enough — how someone could come up with an idea like this:

A dollar bill is a special kind of thing. You can keep it as long as you like. You can pay for things with it. No one will ever charge you a fee. No one will ask any questions about your credit history. And other people won’t try to tell you that they know how to spend that dollar better than you do.

For these reasons, cash is one of the most valuable resources a poor person in the United States can possess. Yet legislators in Kansas, not trusting the poor to use their money wisely, have voted to limit how much cash that welfare beneficiaries can receive, effectively reducing their overall benefits, as well.

The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits.

Since there’s a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.

It’s even worse if the machine only dispenses twenties: you won’t be able to get even $25 at a time.

There were, of course, justifications offered:

“There are actual reports posted as to where the ATMs were that cards were used by Kansas residents,” said state Sen. Caryn Tyson (R), the Ottawa Herald reported. She said that beneficiaries were using their cards “at liquor stores, cigarette shops, strip joints. Casinos was another. There was a $102 [withdrawal] from a person in Colorado at a Rockies baseball game. We don’t know that they spent it on the game, we don’t know what they spent it on, but the ATM was at the Rockies facility. Another one was on a cruise.”

I am less inclined to grumble about the profligacy of some Kansans than I am about the assumption that We Gotta Teach These People A Lesson. Believe me, I know what happens when the money runs out before the end of the month, and by no means am I extraordinarily bright.

Let’s see if Governor Brownback ups the ante by setting up, say, a Meals On Wheels-like gruel dispensary.

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Digging those deep cuts

So Russell Westbrook puts up a brief (well, it would have to be) Instagram video in which he’s singing along with Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”

Swift, who seemingly never misses anything, was quick to respond:

Life is good, right, Russ?

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