Olympic Placebos

The reality’s hard to escape:
It’s just sticky and bright-colored crepe.
It’s absurd, or it’s funny;
It’s made lots of money—
The placebo, Kinesio Tape

Just a few observations, prompted by a post on NPR’s Health Blog and by my observations of the US Olympic trials.

That brightly colored tape adorning the shoulders, legs, and abs of so many Olympians… oh, hell, I’ll say it–it’s a placebo. The NPR piece implies it, but won’t go out on that limb. There is plenty of profit motive behind the tape–which, of course, means that there would be all the more reason for them to highly publicize the research that proves it is more than placebo… and what we get instead are endorsements by athletes.

We’ve seen this before, of course, with various bracelets, with copper, or holograms, or magnets (actually, only click on those if you really doubt that they exist–these snake-oil sales-weasels don’t need you to give them hits. Search for the terms instead, and add “double-blind” to your search terms, and a vastly different story emerges). At the US trials, I saw another placebo, the “cold laser“, which also has tons of accolades and endorsements, but no double-blind experimental support. At the US trials, a behind-the-scenes peek showed us a “laser”(to my eye, it looked like a set of LEDs) being used while the athlete’s warmup suit was still on–I want to see the data on how much light penetrated the suit, let alone any significant layers of skin. The claims, though, were far-reaching, in terms of how much this treatment could balance the athlete’s energies, etc. etc. etc.

Thing is… The better an athlete is, the more chance they have to superstitiously associate some arbitrary event or object with competitive success. The thing about Olympians is, they tend to win (at least in the qualifying meets–otherwise they would not be Olympians). If every member of the trial squad was wearing their secret super-spy decoder ring, the winner is the one who gets to say it contributed to her or his success. (For one of the best presentations of the science here, see Stuart Vyse’s book “Believing in Magic: the Psychology of Superstition”)

Ah,but… the other thing is… even when some pre-performance ritual is superstitious, it can have very real effects on performance. “Placebo” is not at all the same as “no effect”. I would rather my favorite athletes be aware that their success is their own, and not the result of some bracelet, light, tape, or intercessory prayer. But I know my favorite athletes are human, and, as humans, are apt to be influenced by superstitious conditioning. It’s not foolish, it’s perfectly understandable… it’s just wrong.

Car Lands On Fucking Mars…See Page 3

The day we land a car on Mars
(oh, yes, it’s not like other cars)
When scientists are having fun,
The talk in schools, or parks, or bars
Is of some skinhead with a gun.

The biggest story has been missed
(not quite—page three contains the gist)
The world ignores the Martian story
Because some white supremacist
Decides to kill, for God and glory.

The best and worst of humankind
Together, in one day, we find,
The cautious steps toward outer space
The prejudice of damaged mind,
Perceiving tribe, or faith, or race. [Read more…]

John Donne On The Temple Shooting

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect (at my privileged distance) of the Sikh Temple shooting, is the obsession with the differences between Sikhs and Muslims. Intentional or not, the implication is clear; it would be understandable if someone shot up a Muslim mosque.


A guest post today from John Donne. The context was different, and this is an excerpt (albeit the best-known excerpt) from a larger meditation (Meditation XVII–Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris (Now this bell, tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.))

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The Moral Compass Ceded; or, Argument By Snape

A comment from my previous post:

Criticizing God for not doing anything about suffering and evil right now is like reading half a novel and criticizing the author for not resolving the plot. God will bring accountability at the right time.

Besides, he HAS done something already, His name is Jesus – no greater suffering and death has the world witnessed as that God himself had to bear on the cross for our sake. He knows what pain is…, so I trust him on this.

The book is only halfway read;
The final page turn’d in Heaven,
When Hitler’s good is finally shown
Like Severus Snape in book seven. [Read more…]

“Why Me?” — Four Bad Answers

In the case of a shooting, or flooding, or cancer,
The question arises, “why me?”
We tend to get four different species of answer;
Our wishes distort what we’ll see.

Since you won’t get an answer directly from God
You might think of asking a pastor—
For the problem of evil, it strikes me as odd
That his answer is such a disaster. [Read more…]

Atheist Gestapo Bullies Another City into Removing Crosses

It’s the atheist Gestapo, and they’re coming to your town!
If you have a cross in public, they are here to tear it down!
Look at Steubenville, Ohio—they removed a cross from view,
Which was just the sort of horror that the Nazis used to do—
They defend the first amendment, through the power of the court;
Just another Nazi tactic, I am saddened to report.
It’s so typical of bullies that they have to get their way
By denying the majority the right to have a say.
The atheist Gestapo trample Christian rights with pride…
And the damnedest thing about it is… the law is on their side. [Read more…]

25+ Years For ‘Honor’ Killing Of Daughter

She wants a western life—for shame! For shame!
Rejecting our beliefs, she wants to fly;
How dare she bring dishonor to our name.

Correcting her delusion soon became
Our sacred task—I can’t imagine why
She wants a western life—for shame! For shame!

But western news reports held us to blame,
And forced us to dissemble and deny!
How dare she bring dishonor to our name!

A daughter should be ours, to break or tame,
But no, she claims her rights—she dares to cry
“I want a western life”—for shame! For shame!

If her beliefs and ours are not the same
She is not fit to live, in Allah’s eye—
How dare she bring dishonor to our name.

Our honor was at stake! Such was our aim,
We had no other choice—she had to die.
She wanted western life—for shame! For shame!
How dare she bring dishonor to our name

British court convicts parents in ‘honor’ murder

The parents of a 17-year-old girl will spend at least 25 years in a British prison for the death of their daughter after the couple’s conviction Friday for killing her over her desire to live a Westernized lifestyle and become an attorney, a court spokeswoman said Friday.
Chester Crown Court Judge Roderick Evans sentenced Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed to life in prison. He said the couple, who were originally from Pakistan, must be imprisoned for at least 25 years before being eligible for parole.
The sentence came hours after the court found them guilty of murder in the death of Shafilea Ahmed. The girl’s dismembered body was found on a riverbank in February 2004, months after she disappeared in 2003.

Go read the whole thing. I don’t think I can report it here and stay coherent.

Search Terms Puzzle

So today, I had a visit to my blog from someone using the search term “a person has severed her finger what do you do first”.

My question is, what conceivable circumstance under which you are searching for that phrase, would you see “The Digital Cuttlefish” in your results and decide I think I’ll click this one!”.

(Oddly enough, when I search for “a person has severed her finger what do you do first” on Google, one of my posts does show up on page one. So at least our intrepid searcher did not waste time looking beyond there.)

I do hope that among the top three things that were done were A) apply pressure to the wound to minimize bleeding, B) find the severed digit and put it on ice, and C) call 911 (ok, in truth that originally read “dial 911”, which simply shows that I am old). This is not advice–this is my list of at least three things I would do before hopping onto Google and asking. I could be wrong.

I genuinely hope all is well with whoever is the reason for that particular search. I do feel just a bit horrible that my blog might conceivably have been a distraction along the way.

Oh, and if anyone knows the actual real answer to “what do you do first”, consider posting it here, and I’ll happily add it to this post, just for future searchers.