Friday, May 16, 2014

Real Science Works Like This

I happened upon this article in a tweet, and I like it as much for what is shows about a rigorous researcher's methods as the actual content of the study: I actually read a brief article a while ago that said, simply, "if you don't have Celiac's, gluten won't mess you up." As I've said this to a few people, it's nice to have a bit more research to back up that statement!

My non-specific-to-the-gluten-conversation take-aways are these:

Experimental design is vital to getting good results, and good researchers are obsessive about eliminating variables. This is actually a big problem I have with most research about climate change; you can't eliminate the variables to the extent that you can attribute the cause to human activity. The first study was actually very well done, but the guy wasn't satisfied. Wow.

The 'Nocebo' effect is real.

Good research deliberately sets out to disprove it's prior findings rather than confirm them, because it's failing to disprove them when you are rigorously trying to do so that confirms your previous findings....

In 2011, Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI Unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, published a study that found gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, to cause gastrointestinal distress in patients without celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder unequivocally triggered by gluten. Double-blinded, randomized, and placebo-controlled, the experiment was one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), more commonly known as gluten intolerance, is a genuine condition.
By extension, the study also lent credibility to the meteoric rise of the gluten-free diet. Surveys now show that 30% of Americans would like to eat less gluten, and sales of gluten-free products are estimated to hit $15 billion by 2016 -- that's a 50% jump over 2013's numbers!
But like any meticulous scientist, Gibson wasn't satisfied with his first study. His research turned up no clues to what actually might be causing subjects' adverse reactions to gluten. Moreover, there were many more variables to control! What if some hidden confounder was mucking up the results? He resolved to repeat the trial with a level of rigor lacking in most nutritional research. Subjects would be provided with every single meal for the duration of the trial. Any and all potential dietary triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms would be removed, including lactose (from milk products), certain preservatives like benzoates, propionate, sulfites, and nitrites, and fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates, also known as FODMAPs. And last, but not least, nine days worth of urine and fecal matter would be collected. With this new study, Gibson wasn't messing around.

***Update/addition*** This is fascinating:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let Me Count The Ways Modern Media Is A Curse (ok, it has some good points, too)

So, my diversions do far today have included this excellent video rant:

I love it when someone takes the media to task. Now, the media does do stuff, but they also are slaves to the need for advertising dolllars, so they do stupid stuff like telling us total bs about how horrible things are. That Cracked article provides lots of links, but here are 3 pertinent ones that make my point. The crime and murder rates are down, yet all we think it's worse. I've enjoyed many Cracked articles lately, here's another one about guns that is fairly honest about what so many people are wrong about, including the fact that it's stupid to say that you need a gun because of rising crime because crime isn't rising. (Ok, it has one of the stupid link-bait headlines that I despise, and the language is pretty strong, but it raises several excellent points).

The major drivers of what gets reported around the country are the wire services and they are horribly biased, you can google it yourself, no need for me to find examples. I will offer some thoughts, though.

The major news media are the ones that are horribly racist, sexist, bigoted, and homophobic. Seriously. At the same time, they are absolutely using racism, bigotry, homophobia, etc., to drive ratings and, therefore, what they can charge for ad time. Seriously. At the same time they are afraid of being labeled as racists, etc.

Let's start with the most recent (and what got this line of thought started on my brain this morning) example, Donald Sterling, the Clippers, and Magic Johnson. "What," you ask, "does Magic Johnson have to do with Sterling, how bleeping racist he is and his team?" I'll tell you, and others have, but you will never see it on NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, or maybe even FOX.

Why? Because if they tell the tale of Magic Johnson's work behind the scenes to get Sterling out of the league so that his group CAN BUY THE CLIPPERS, they would be accused of racism against poor old, HIV surviving Magic Johnson with his charming smile and all that. Anyway, the thing is that Magic has been angling for a while to get a share of the Clipper with his investment group, and that's one of the reasons Sterling said what he said to his lover: she was fraternizing with his economic enemy (who also happens to be black, which isn't something Sterling is in favor of, either, apparently). Mind you, the other guy in the offensive instagram photo was a Dodger, which Magic's group also owns. Can you see why he was pissed off? This Business Week article hints at this in the last paragraph. This article says it straight out:
Make no mistake: Magic's Dodgers group is angling for a Southern California sports empire. Magic Johnson and Guggenheim had been aggressive in pursuing a purchase of the Los Angeles Lakers – only to have the Buss family make clear to them the franchise isn't for sale, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Nevertheless, this is business and Magic's willing to change colors and make himself a Clipper. Between the Dodgers and Clippers, Magic Johnson could be the face of two championship contenders.
Magic could have it all.
"This is 100 percent Magic's plan," a league official intimately involved in the buying and selling of franchises told Yahoo Sports.

Let me be clear: Sterling is a racist. He has shown that for years, but why now the furor? I'm not the only one pointing out the fake shock about this "discovery."

But now that the storyline has progressed to "Sterling said bad things about Magic," the fact that he actually had a reason to dislike him, and that Magic's business dealings are pretty aggressive (crony capitalism is on every side of the political spectrum) will never see the light of day on any major news story. Take that to the bank, folks.

But, implicit in the stories are the disdain for Sterling's "jewishness." This story also shares the opinion that Magic is not upset by the turn of events.

What does this have to do with the stated thesis of this rant?

The media. The media has a point of view that they are pushing and they aren't doing their actual job (gosh, i don't know, like playing the entire tape showing the full context of Sterling saying the dumb things he said? Maybe investigating V's relationship with Magic as some are suggesting it was all about getting him on tape so that an uproar could be caused, leading to a sale of the Clippers?) It's pretty transparent now that Magic is saying Mrs. Sterling has no place in the ownership, either, but don't expect any reporter to question him on that scary opinion. Seriously, why are they even asking him that question? Why does he get a say?

The media doesn't even think to ask questions like those, just like they aren't bothered by the things we don't know about Benghazi.

Michael Sam is gay, did you know that? He's double protected by the media because he's black and he's gay. I have said 1000 times, "if it's not supposed to matter, why are all the media telling me it should matter that he's gay?" There have been plenty of gay NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, etc. players, and as one owner said "we all knew, and we didn't care." Why are we supposed to care so much about it now? There's an answer to that, and I don't think people will like it because it sounds all tinfoil-hat-wearing crazy. It seems to me there has been a shift from "I don't care as long as you do your job" to identity-politics finally infiltrating the NFL (and the NBA, etc.). It reminds me of the Tebow situation. Do you know how many evangelical Christians there are in the NFL? Why was his career destroyed because of his evangelism? He did a great job at Denver, why should he switch positions to kowtow to the religious bigots? He was a championship winning quarterback, not just some random drafted QB, after all. (note: he beat my college team in a bowl game, so I'm supposed to hate him, right? Take that, haters).

How many players were drafted to the NFL? Here's a case in point: I just Googled that, and the first hit was about Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend. Complete with a picture. Point made. He was number 249. How many other players names do you know? How many kissed their lovers, wives, partners? Why is he a story? His abilities on the field have been challenged, but now that he has been drafted, he will make the team, he has to in this modern media world, because if he doesn't, it will be called bias. St. Louis knew this when they picked him, so it's their albatross. I think that this is a true case of a political stance (progressive) being pushed on us via equality as a meme.

This is painful to me, by the way, to point out because I have had so many friends in my life that are gay. Not in the "oh, some of my friends are gay" defensive cliche, I'm serious. I've known that some of my friends were gay before they did. My gaydar is legendary. Good lord, I've been a singer and performer my whole life. This recent trend, though, that all things are about Gay is strange. Again, if it's 2014 and I'm not supposed to care, why are you constantly telling me how much it matters that Michael Sam is gay?

On a side note, I saw some picture of a young actress that came out recently, and thought "oh, yes, brave, as there are no gays in entertainment..."

The show Nashville has a gay character hiding because the bigoted country music fans will care! Crap. It's clearly being written by someone too old to get that music fans don't care about any kind of stuff like that: if they did, how many cds would Chris Brown sell? Country music has become pop, and the fans are all girls wearing short shorts and cowboy boots. Justin Timberlake could come out and it wouldn't hurt his sales a bit. Again, notice who I am criticizing here: the writers.

And the media, well they go for the stories that they believe will bring the biggest bang for the buck. Seriously, take some time to go to your local news stations' sites and critically take a look at what you see, then get back to me.

I think you will see white stories. Both stories that are designed to appeal to white audiences, and stories that shore up white feelings of all kinds: race guilt, fear, whatever. While calling out guys like Sterling, supporting the idea that those that merely disagree with the President's politics are racist, they live in fear of being branded racist themselves, so they don't tell all of any story. Remember Trayvon Martin? His friend that was talking to him during the events leading up to his death said publicly, on tv, that he thought the guy following him was a homo rapist and he was going to teach him a lesson and keep him away from his little brother who was home alone. I bet you didn't know that, or even the little white lie about what drink he actually bought, because if they reported the truth it might make them look racist. The "story" had been decided, so saying he might have actually started the fight (oh no, an angry black youth! watermelon drink!) would get in the way of the narrative. I bet you think I'm racist for pointing it out, but doesn't the truth matter? What drink he bought shouldn't matter, so why change that detail? (Actually, there are reasons to change that detail).

Perceptions matter, of course. But if you watched Bill Whittle's video, you might see that we agree on this: the media (Big Media, if you will) has an agenda that often makes facts and truth irrelevant to them. People will think we're racist if we tell the truth that Trayvon's drink was watermelon, so go along with the crowd calling it "tea." People will think we are homophobic if we treat Michael Sam like any other 249th pick in the NFL draft, so it's wall-to-wall gayness.

Now, Benghazi? That's another kind of bias, the kind of bias that makes calling people "teabaggers" ok in these United States of America. We can't show a story that possibly shows the First Black President as weak, foolish, or negligent (ditto for Hilary), because we might get called racist (or worse, teabaggers), so we avoid it at all costs, to the point that we don't know the basic answers to what should be basic questions asked by Trey Gowdy.

It's fear, isn't it? Rush Limbaugh made the point today that the hashtag war againt Boko Haram is silly: we (ok, Michelle and Hilary) are so afraid of terrorists and what they might do that the most they will do is take a selfie with a hashtag. God forbid we offend the people that want to kill us, steal children and convert them to provide "wives" for their fellow terrorists so they can say they didn't rape them to impregnate them to make more terrorists.

Pathetic, isn't it?

Friday, May 9, 2014

I Said It First!

Just yesterday I was on a very mild rant about something I hate, which is meaningless gestures for gestures' sake, you know like Odysseus dabbing at his dry eye as though he was dabbing a tear, or, more specifically,  like the First Lady holding up a tweet hashtag.

Seriously? Your husband is the President of the United States. You can say "Barack, effing fix this now." And you engage in a MEANINGLESS GESTURE?


The thing is, didn't I just bring this kind of crap of on Earth Day? To quote myself, 
Ok, now, "Awareness." I am SO SICK of Awareness Campaigns. Everyone knows about cancer, ok? Everyone knows about AIDS, Diabetes, Juvenile Diabetes, MS, ALS, drunk driving, hunger, abuse, cigarettes, ALL OF THESE THINGS!!!!!! About the only thing most people aren't aware of is just how much human trafficking is actually going on everywhere.

Secondly, are the "I support blah blah blah" crap posts everywhere. This was lampooned on Facebook recently and many people didn't even get it. The probably think Swift was serious about the baby thing, too.

If you have a pet cause, write a check. If you want to affect change, raise some cash. We are aware, and we support sufferers everywhere, so instead of "liking" or re-tweeting DONATE. Quietly.
It's not over, though, we sent an explicity non-military force, but rather, investigators to assist. "Don't worry terrorists, we aren't ccccccoming to kkkkkill you!"


Now, all of this being said, this showed up from Rush Limbaugh. I said it first. He is taking some heat for it, but obviously I totally agree with his point. If the flippin' President just "wishes" he could do something, what point is there in being the flippin' President of the United States?