Pop Quiz: What Is That?

When I was living in Dublin, getting used to the hygiene situation was difficult for me. The fact that I was a student and thus could not afford to live in the nicer neighborhoods I’m sure made the situation more extreme. I saw things in shops there that I have never seen since: bowls of tuna mayo mix accidentally being left out over night and the guy behind the counter just mixing it up to hide the crust that formed on the surface. Fish markets with small stacks of sharks, and boxes of mussels, covered in flies and not a scrap of ice to be found. Butchers with bowls of minced meat on the counter, completely oxidized and brown on top, then a person coming out from the back and adding fresh mince on top of it and mixing it through, in front of all the customers like it was no big deal. Hams that reduced to the size of a filet mignon because they had been injected with salt water to make them seem plump and inviting. Chippers that stank up entire blocks with the smell of rancid oil.

However, the one that took the cake was at a Spar, which is a supermarket chain. Usually they have sandwich counters, where you can ask for a baguette with this and that to take with you to work, or wherever. One day, in my local Spar, I saw this behind the counter. Can any of you tell what they are?

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That’s A Great Idea

An Indian company has decided to tackle the problem of disposable cutlery, which is just one of the many things that contribute significantly to our global waste problem

 

 

Some might say that this is just a tiny grain of sand in a beach full of problems. Personally, I like it. Many people working together on a global issue, and tackling many different parts of the problem at the same time, are definitely steps in the right direction. Would it be better if we can tackle it with one, big solution? Sure, but that’s unlikely to happen, so in the meantime I’ll take these kinds of inventions with a smile on my face.

No More Feeling Sorry For Myself

I’m usually a pretty cynical person. I often find self-help touchy-feely write-a-letter-to-your-inner-child stuff to be dorky and unhelpful (to me, personally) when I get into one of my dark moods. Today I was grumpy, very grumpy, for a combination of reasons which I now realize are lack of sleep, low blood sugar, and #FirstWorldProblems. How did I come to this realization? Because, at exactly the right moment, I came across this video.

 

His facial expressions are the best. Despite it not being my usual style, I couldn’t help grinning throughout this entire video. In two minutes, he pulled me right out of my funk.

Sean, I love you too!

Finally, the NHS Gets the Message

Sometimes they are a little late to the party, but finally the NHS has realized that acupuncture has not passed the mustard when it comes to randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical studies

 

Acupuncture is no longer recommended as a treatment for low back pain on the NHS, according to new draft guidelines released today by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

The u-turn comes after a review of scientific evidence found that the practice was no better than a placebo in treating those living with low back pain and sciatica.

The draft guidelines report that there have now been a large number of scientific trials looking into the effectiveness of acupuncture but that, “there was still not compelling and consistent evidence of a treatment-specific effect for acupuncture.”

Low back pain is thought affect one in 10 people, while its cost to the UK economy is estimated to exceed £12 billion a year in lost productivity.

Nice guidelines from 2009 on the early management of low back pain recommended that healthcare providers “consider offering a course of acupuncture needling comprising up to a maximum of 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks.”

But the new draft guidelines, now covering sciatica as well as low back pain, contain an unequivocal volte-face, stating: “Do not offer acupuncture for managing non-specific low back pain with or without sciatica.”

When you have government-funded health care, it is generally a good idea to avoid spending money on treatments that do not work better than a sugar pill.

Next step? Perhaps include treatments under the NHS coverage only when they are proven to work, and not excluding them only when they are proven not to work 30 times. But hey, that’s just my suggestion.

Thoughts On: Shaming Your Kids

Note: This is an old post, slightly edited

A year ago, a discussion came up on TYT that got me all conflicted, as it sometimes does. I’ve realized that when you agree with some people 95% of the time, that only makes the 5% you disagree on feel more jarring. This case had to do with parenting, and whether or not it is a viable parenting strategy to shame your kids.

Jimmy Dore and Karamo Brown – a new occasional co-host on TYT, disagree quite strongly on whether or not subjecting your child to public humiliation is a good parenting strategy. Viscerally, I disagreed with Karamo Brown, but I wasn’t quite sure why. There were other instances of publicly humiliating kids that had been covered by TYT which I did agree was a good strategy, despite the fact that Ana often comes out 100% against it. In this case, however, I found myself siding with Jimmy Dore, although it took a while for me to wrap my head around why that was.

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One Of My Favorite Things On the Internet

A couple of months ago I discovered a YouTuber called Malinda Kathleen Reese, who has made one of the most hilarious YouTube series of all time: Google Translate Sings.

The concept is simple enough, which is why it’s pure genius. She puts the lyrics of a song through several layers of Google Translate, then translates whatever came out of it back into English. She then makes parody videos with the new (and, in my opinion, vastly improved) lyrics.

Here are some of my favorites:

Hello, by Adele

 

Wrecking Ball, by Miley Cyrus

 

Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen

 

I think I need to start supporting her on Patreon. More of these videos need to exist, as soon as possible.

Cultural Differences: The Irony in Assumptions

It is hard for pretty much everyone to escape their own context. It is an instinct that we have to fight against constantly if we want to keep an open perspective. Sometimes the different perspectives catch you completely by surprise. Sometimes, by not realizing that you are making assumptions based on your own cultural perspective, you can fall into a big steaming vat of sweet, sweet irony.

Last year, I was visiting my aunt and uncle in the States, which is something I do every few years. I was sitting next to my uncle at the dinner table, at which time my great-aunt (grandaunt?) came up in conversation, whom I will call Lucy for the purposes of this story. Lucy had visited me in Italy a few times. My uncle told me that he, of course, had been very worried about Lucy when she had traveled to Italy to visit me, and was happy that everything had gone alright.

I was confused. Why were you worried? Because she’s getting on in years, and the trip is a long and tiring one? Because she’s not in the best of health? Because she is a bit of a picky eater, and might not find food to her liking? He chuckled at me. “No”, he said, “because of what she’s like”. I still didn’t understand. “Because she’s, like, a man. She dresses like a man, acts like a man, she’s basically a man, and we were worried that she wouldn’t be accepted. We love her for who she is, of course, but you never know in other countries how people would react to someone like that”.

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Thoughts On: Body Farms, Anatomy Museums and Consent

Note: old post, slightly edited

This is one of those cases in which for a long time I had to really think about why I felt the way I feel about a certain thing. So here’s the deal: I am not opposed to art exhibits or museums which display human bodies, I was brought to an anatomy museum as a freshman in high school, and while it was a little disturbing for a 13-14 year old (particularly the severely malformed fetuses and the poster book of a sliced pregnant woman), I do not oppose their existence. Of course I am also fully aware that body farms and autopsies performed for medical training are invaluable to our society and even if I were opposed to the former, the latter is undeniably essential. Here’s my one caveat though: the people who are used have to have consented to this while they were alive. I am firm on this, and I did not go to one of the body exhibits in Dublin because I was told that the majority of the bodies used were unclaimed as opposed to voluntarily donated. Why, though, do I feel this way?

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