Sunday, May 25, 2014

Batch of links

- The Engineer and I are preparing to spend the summer in Montreal again. The dating profiles of every Montreal man, however, took me home while I was still sitting in Texas. I also enjoyed 20 things you never knew about Montreal.

- Here are 9 French expressions that have no good English equivalent.

- I loved this article called The Overprotected Kid, about the evolution of parenting attitudes since the 1970s. Playgrounds in particular are much safer, but this denies children the opportunity to take risks and develop independence. I’m on the fence about this, because while I wouldn’t send my kid to the playground by himself, I would want him playing in a yard like The Land, described in the article…

- Here are two articles about how we don’t teach children to clean house anymore. It’s true that I don’t actually know anyone who still washes their walls and floors every spring. Young adults today sometimes never learned things like the importance of cleaning from top to bottom or soaking dishes, but they also place cleaning lower on the priority totem pole than surfing the web or catching up on their TV shows. Thank God for visitors, which always make us clean at least the part of the house they’ll see!

- What it’s like to be a billionaire’s butler, strangely fascinating.

- A look at the story behind #YesAllWomen.

- I meant to link to this sooner and never got around to it… Here’s an article titled Children should be seen, not heard, where the author basically argues that children shouldn’t be so present in museums (as visitors). While I can agree that children should be taught to behave properly in such spaces (using their indoor voice, being mindful of other visitors, etc.), and while I also resent the “dumbing down” of certain exhibits to the point where visitors are not given enough information about the pieces (as was the case the last time I visited the Insectarium in Montreal), I have to say I overall disagree with the author. Children belong in museums because they deserve to learn, to see various cultural artefacts firsthand. I enjoyed this rebuttal by Alana Cole-Faber. An excerpt: “Yes, children are often noisy in museums. Yes, sometimes they run when they should walk. Yes, sometimes they touch when they should not. However, children are brought to museums for their education, and this education includes more than simply who made what and when. Bringing children to museums teaches them that these institutions have value, that what is inside them has value, and that the people who work there have value.”

- Toronto’s mayor has been in the news entirely too much lately, but I have to say I’m really liking Clagary’s mayor.

- The science of why we don’t believe science – this is a long read, but very enjoyable. Of course, when the Engineer shared it with his friends, it devolved into an argument not about the premise of the article itself, but about the extent of climate change specifically. Sigh.

- I talked about the subject of “alternative” medicine with my husband recently, after reading a Time article about the inclusion of herbal therapy at the Cleveland Clinic. (I thought this was fantastic, mostly since I think herbal supplements should be regulated like prescription medication, just because of all the ways the two can interact and because patients are often unaware of this and therefore don’t mention herbal supplements to their doctors or pharmacists. I love the idea of integrating it all into one system, also weeding out ineffective meds/herbs.) But anyway, here’s an article titled How Big Pharma Holds Back the War on Cancer. It isn’t a conspiracy theory, just an explanation as to why it is not always economically feasible to sink a lot of money in clinical trials if there isn’t likely to be a financial payoff even if the drug DOES work.

- There are also many things that doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe because of all the studies that are never published.

- And while we’re at it, a very informative article titled Cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer – the evidence so far.

- The drug valproate, used to treat epilepsy and mood disorders, has an interesting side effect: it helps adults acquire perfect pitch or learn a new language with fluency, just like children do naturally.

- A musician has assigned a numerical value to musical notes and plays the number pi.

- Which hip-hop artist has the largest vocabulary? Aesop Rock, apparently. And Axl Rose has the greatest range.

- The Lonely Subtitle: Here’s Why U.S. Audiences Are Abandoning Foreign-Language Films. Sadly, I’m all too familiar with this.

- A man went in search of a set of keys his grandfather left in a POW camp during WW2.

- We often don’t notice the homeless. Or at least, we don’t look at them. We don’t even notice if they are family (and I admit I probably wouldn’t have fared better in that experiment).

- And to end on a high note: 22 before and after pictures of animals, along with two kids who have taken a picture with Santa for the past 34 years. You’re welcome.


malt_soda said...

It's ironic that the discussion about article on why we don't believe science proved the article's point. I guess it's true what they say: arguing with some people is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are, the pigeon will always strut about like it won and shit all over the place.

Not a big fan of integrative or alternative medicine. In my mind, there is only medicine- what has been proven to work. Even with all the problems with clinical trials (getting funding being the first), science is still our best way of knowing. I once read that integrative medicine is like mixing cow pie with apple pie. People think they are improving the cow pie but really all they've done is ruin an apple pie. But that's my value, and you'll be hard-pressed to convince me otherwise. ;)

Amélie said...

Oh yes, that article about not believing science was spot-on. I think the Legal Chef even admitted that he stopped reading it after he didn't like hearing facts about climate change... like the article said he would.

Regarding alternative medicine: I discussed this with the Engineer, and realized that where we differ is not in how we feel about it, but more about our knee-jerk reaction to it. We both believe in science above all, so if a proper clinical trial shows that "alternative medicine A" is ineffective, then obviously we should stop using it and should continue using "prescription medicine X" instead. However, he feels that anything that isn't "X" is automatically a sham, whereas I feel that there might be some "As" out there that western medicine hasn't bothered testing yet. Or even, in some cases, "As" that are not harmful and that can be used in addition to (not instead of) "X", even if we're not sure that they work - or if they just work by placebo effect and make the patient feel better. (E.g., drinking raspberry leaf tea when you're 41 weeks pregnant, if your OB has okayed it: it may not help, but it won't hurt so you might as well try.) Ideally, I'd love for everything to be tested so we can have definitive answers, but I know there just aren't funds for that.

(I also think that perhaps the reason I don't automatically dismiss all alternative medicine is that I spent quite some time living in Asia, and I figure that even though I'd prefer to be treated in North America, I still can't dismiss all eastern traditional medicine as useless. I also had an experience in Montreal where I was taking a yoga class, and one day we did a different type of yoga - I wish I could remember the name - and we ALL felt badly, headache, fatigue, etc., without being told in advance that this could happen. And it had never happened with the first type of yoga. So I know that stuff like this can affect the human body, and I know that there must be a scientific explanation for it, but I don't know what it is. The Engineer has never experienced anything like that and can't relate.)

malt_soda said...

My problem with the placebo effect is that people feel better but it doesn't actually make them better (a study was done with asthma patients and the placebo did as well as the medication, until they measured airflow). It can be dangerous for patients to think are are being treated and feel better when in reality they are not better. This is my problem with complementary medicine as a whole. I am fully welcoming of something alternative becoming mainstream with enough evidence (and not inconclusive evidence after many studies -I'm looking at you, acupuncture). My problem is that complementary medicine is not used to supplement but to supplant mainstream medicine. People complain about Big
Pharma, and all the problems with medications, but supplements are completely unregulated (not to mention everyone always talks about how much money Big Pharma rakes in, while ignoring the fact that the supplement industry is also a billion dollar industry). It's one thing to take a supplement with no side effects because it might help, but given that there is no onus to prove safety, even if you were assured purity of product, how do you really know it's safe? I tend to agree that most often alternative medicine is a scam, and there are too many people taken in by alternative treatments who dismiss mainstream medicine and die as a result (for the record even 1 is too many).

Amélie said...

I agree with the points you made. That's also why I thought it was a good idea to have all those services under one roof, under medical supervision. I definitely think alternative supplements should be regulated!

I think that when I was talking about the placebo effect, what I had n mind was more along the lines of treating chronic pain - if you don't have any symptoms measurable by an outside source but are in pain, and then you use whatever treatment and find yourself in less pain, then it's obviously worth it. But as you say, there are diseases where one might feel better but not actually be better...

malt_soda said...

Yeah, I think of chronic pain as a 'God of the gaps' situation. There's so much we don't know about it that if something helps someone feel better who's experiencing pain that's not telling them something (because pain is meant to be useful), then sure why not. But again, what are they really getting when they take a supplement? Does that also mean that once we have treatments for everything we will no longer need alternative medicine for its placebo effects?

I think having it all under one roof lends legitimacy to it and that bothers me. It's like a parent who let's their kids drink or do drugs at home, because at least they can supervise it. I think the only merit to doctors studying CAM is so they can know how to steer people away from it.

I also like that we can have a civilized conversation about these things that doesn't devolve into semantics. It's good to stretch the brain and consider other points of view.