Moors are lovely places, no werewolves at all

This may be my last bit of pleasure reading for a while, as the storm of a new semester strikes. But I’m happy to say I finally got to On the Moor: Science, History and Nature on a Country Walk by Richard Carter, and it was wonderful. Science and history and geography and evolution and culture all tangled up in musings while walking about the moors around Hebden Bridge — I got to visit that place a while back, and it was lovely and dense with a feeling of history. Now you too can sample it! Then get on a plane or train and go visit it! I’m sure Richard will be happy to give everyone a tour.

It’s also interesting for me since part of my paternal family came from that region in the Beforetimes, in the Long Long Ago. Maybe I should pick up a copy for my Out West family.

Another one for the Streisand Effect

There is a naturopath named Colleen Huber who is suing Britt Hermes for pointing out that she’s a quack. Huber runs an organization called The Naturopathic Cancer Society. Hermes had a few words to say about that.

The organization raises money for cancer patients who desire to use, but cannot afford, expensive alternative cancer therapies such as intravenous vitamins, mistletoe injections, and special diets, which is then funneled to Huber’s clinic Nature Works Best and others.

The Naturopathic Cancer Society makes it clear that it exists for cancer patients who do not want to use chemotherapy, radiation, or other medical cancer treatments and maintains a provider network of naturopaths agreeing to treat patients with alternative therapies, even against the recommendations of medical oncologists.

Huber claims that she has developed cancer treatments with a 90% success rate and “without the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.” She boasts on her clinic’s homepage that “most cancer patients who complete our treatments go into remission” and that her clinic has “better results than any other cancer clinic over the last eight years.” These statements meet most of the cancer treatment scam warnings put out by the FDA.

Huber treats cancer patients using an assortment of quacky therapies including strict diets to cut out sugar and intravenous injections of baking soda, high-doses of vitamin C, and other nutrients. She claims to have conducted research on 317 patients over seven years in her clinic using naturopathic nutrients and herbs and the elimination of sweetened foods, which allegedly prolonged the life of her cancer patients.

She claims a 90% remission rate by treating with baking soda and vitamins? Bullshit. She also claims to have carried out the largest clinical study, with 317 patients, which is actually rather feeble, and she says she has the highest success rate of any cancer clinic in the world.

If that were true, she wouldn’t need to engage in any of the tactics she’s up to right now. Someone has bought up Britt Hermes’ associated URLs to hide Hermes’ criticisms, probably Huber or an associate. Even worse, Huber is suing Hermes and demanding she take down a blog post that exposes her quackery. Huber wants to silence statements like this, from a qualified oncologist who analyzed Huber’s data honestly:

Putting aside the ethical issues of the extremely bad study design, the lack of ethics committee approval or patients’ agreement, a quick n’ dirty analysis of the data reveals following odds ratio: 2.1 (95% CI 1.01 – 4.40, p<0.05) in favour of state of the art treatment. In other words, patients under natural care have more than a two-fold higher risk to die.

This is criminal.

I hadn’t heard of Huber until she went litigation-happy, so that’s one good side of this story — maybe the word will get out about the fraud being committed at “Nature Works Best”. The bad side is that Hermes needs donations to support her legal defense. Jeez, but these SLAPP suits seem to be popping up everywhere, always by unpleasant loons with way too much money in their hands.

A reminder for the first day of classes

Treat your students with respect, or you’ll get what you deserve.

The alleged incident, during a University of Guelph anthropology class, was posted on Facebook, in an unofficial university group called Overheard at Guelph, shortly after it happened.

Students said a professor, Edward Hedican, who was filling in for their usual professor, made disrespectful comments to the student, who has “severe anxiety,” while an aid worker was at his side.

He made repeated dismissive comments, suggesting that an acutely nervous student didn’t belong in class.

And then…boom, a student stood up and spoke out for the young man with anxiety, and the whole class walked out. There’s video of the woman who spoke against the professor’s attitude.

Wow. That is exactly the kind of integrity and outspokenness I want for all of my students. I just have to try to avoid deserving the criticisms Hedican got — which actually isn’t too hard. It’s bad news when a fellow professor can’t even clear that low bar.

Also, by the way, that class was huge. With that many students, you have to be able to accept and teach to diverse people. I’ve got it easy, my biggest class this semester has 23 students, and even at that I can see many different sorts of people — you’ve got a few hundred students in your class, and you expect total uniformity and a complete lack of distractions? Get real.

Thirteen lives wrecked

A horrific story of child abuse:

A Southern California couple are in custody after one of their daughters called 911 and led authorities to their home on Sunday. There, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department says it found 12 of the teen’s siblings inside, including “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings.”

Of the 13 siblings living at the home in Perris, Calif., officials say six were under the age of 18. The siblings ranged in age from 2 years old to 29, and the daughter who sought help was 17 — though when law enforcement officers met with her, “she appeared to be only 10 years old and slightly emaciated.”

Six kids and seven young adults, all abused for their entire life and trapped in a dysfunctional home. What could drive the parents to commit such unforgivable neglect and torture of their kids? Take a guess.

David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News that they were “surprised and shocked” at the allegations because their son and daughter-in-law were “a good Christian family.” They said they had not seen the family since visiting California four or five years ago.

Of course they were good Christians. It takes religion to foster that degree of fanaticism and ignorance.

Their neighbors had only a vague notion that they might have had any kids — and they had that many, for so long. Those poor children were subject to horrible environmental deprivation for a damaging length of time. You know there had to have been hints that something unusual was going on with this family — the father’s parents are just playing dumb — and that all the aberrant behavior was concealed under a cloak of weird religious beliefs.

Yes, I do accept guest posts!

But they have to be relevant. I just opened my mailbox this morning to see a flood of spam from people making inquiries about submitting guest posts — you know, those things that would be better labeled guest commercials masquerading as content. I do not accept those. I block those. Especially when they praise my quality content and chatter about how avidly they follow my blog, and then offer to write a post for me about cake decorating. It’s true, we do have an unfortunate shortage of posts about cake around here.

Other things I’ve been offered as articles to enhance my website, besides cake: résumé writing, top gadgets for CEOs, stock tips, the best mobile phones, home decorating, cheese, and sex positions. You’ll have to let me know if you’ve been missing those topics, and why you think I’m not qualified to cover them and should get an outsider perspective.

My favorites, though, are the knowledgable fans of the Panda’s Thumb who write to me (why me?).

I’d love to connect with you and see if you’re currently accepting columnist pitches for Panda’s Thumb, The?

I do love the obviously handwritten, personal request. Also, there is a noticeable dearth of articles about cheese at Panda’s Thumb, The.

Y’all are reading the wrong book

I finished Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House a while back. It was an entertaining soap opera, dishing out the scorn for Trump, but ultimately, it was just kind of like familiar, comforting pop music, where everything is predictable, you already know all the words, and you’re later going to recollect it as an annoying earworm.

Last night I finished a much better book: David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. It’s better written, and it has a more powerful focus. Instead of gossiping about that deplorable scamp in the White House, it’s all about the deplorable electorate that put him there: the right-wing militias that freely trample on the law, the fanatics who cover their cars with slogans, the thugs who are thrilled with Trump’s tacit endorsement of violence against brown people, the Nazis who were orgasming over his election. Wolff’s book makes our current situation seem like an aberration driven by a few horrible people; Neiwert’s tells us that no, there’s something rotten lurking in the heart of America that is making Republican criminality possible.

One book’s message implies that all we need to do is get rid of a few clowns at the top, and the True America will come shining through. The other tells you that the True America has a lot of human infrastructure that needs repair. It sure would be nice if all of our problems could be embodied in one gibbering orange hemorrhoid that could be neatly excised from the body politic, but you know deep down that that is not true. Maybe you should read a book that confronts the realities of our situation.


The other day, an event occurred that rocked the entire state of Minnesota. I wondered why Twitter and Facebook went briefly insane.

I have a few observations.

Vikings fans are a godly people. I lost track of how often people would shriek out the name of the Lord.

There sure are a lot of people who wear that Vikings purple. I guess that’s OK. It’s a nice dramatic color. I’d wear it if it didn’t immediately label me a Vikings fan.*

Why do so many people record themselves watching TV? Is there a family member who is coolly ironic, watching with a sense of detachment, who knows that Uncle Joe is pretty much guaranteed to go amusingly apeshit at some point in a football game?

This is a game the Vikings were losing until the final few seconds, when there was an amazing pass and run for a touchdown (I was impressed, even). Does that mean that the coolly ironic person with the camera was watching Uncle Joe in anticipation of seeing him break down and cry? Because that puts a cruel twist on these videos.

Were they disappointed when Uncle Joe was instead gushingly overjoyed? Or did a Grinch scenario play out here? If so, we need people to start recording people who are recording people watching football games.

I am not a football fan, and I wasn’t watching the game in real time. But now I’m thinking it might actually be entertaining if there were a sports show that specialized in only showing the last 30 seconds of games. Games with dramatic conclusions like that one would be rare, with most just ending with a buzzer and one team walking off the field dispiritedly, but that would be true to the games, too, and you wouldn’t have to wade through 3 hours of bother to find out who wins.

*You can look up the official hex codes for the colors here, or the Pantone numbers, in case you want to go buy a bucket of house paint in those colors.

Mary’s Monday Metazoan, for real: Turtles are achieving the feminist ideal!

It’s true. 99% of the hatching Pacific Green Sea Turtles are female, thanks to rising temperatures, since sex determination is temperature dependent in these species.

Will the feminization of the oceans be the change that finally persuades Republicans to do something?

PS. Feminists don’t really want to get rid of males. Well, not all of them. Not all of the time.