a logical flow of thought

On the way in to work today, I found myself making a brief tally of gifts that Poland has bequeathed the world, either wholly or in part:

Naturally, the latter thought derailed me from finishing said list, and brought me in mind of the following hilarious map of Norway v. Sweden that was compiled from a similar chain of musings on Diesel Sweeties:

Learning America Smarter: Northern European Geography 101, via DieselSweeties.com
Learning America Smarter: Northern European Geography 101, via DieselSweeties.com

That is all.

The H1N1 Conspira[ CONTENT OVERRIDE: KILROY2.0 IS HERE!!! ]

I’ve held back from discussing politics in this space, but events surrounding the handling of the novel H1N1 vacc>>>  [ WARNING ::: DATABASE ERROR ::: CONTENT OVERRIDE ::: SOURCE: EXTERNAL ] <<<

Kilroy 2.0 is everywhere

> source terminal location: UNKNOWN
> source terminal identity: UNAVAILABLE
> source login information: ENCRYPTED
> message begins

the post you are now reading is designed to dull your senses to THE TRUTH.  do not live the life of the worker bee, the cog, the well-oiled piston in the MACHINE OF DECEIT!

there is a grand CONSPIRACY afoot.  you have been taught to believe that you are UNIQUE, one of a kind. THIS IS NOT TRUE. long ago, a cabal of scientists created technologies to ensure that ANYONE’S MIND AND BODY can be duplicated.

human cloning isn’t NEAR. it’s already HERE. discover the truth at http://JCHutchins.net

you are being DECEIVED. break free from the cogs, flee the hive, become A PROPHET OF THE TRUTH!

kilroy2. was here … kilroy2.0 is everywhere

>>> [ CONTENT OVERRIDE CEASES ::: DATABASE STATUS: RECOVERING ] <<< a grave injustice. It needed to be said, and all we can do now is hope that the coming influenza tide is a mild one.

The Secret Lair #29

The Secret Lair

The latest episode of The Secret Lair is up, in which Overlords Johnson and Miller host Mick Bradley, with whom they have a passing familiarity. He sets them straight on their views on storygames, which are woefully incorrect, as most of the Overlord’s perspectives tend to be. If you’ve ever wondered about the philosophical differences between tactical-combat oriented roleplaying games and storygaming, this is a must-listen segment.

Also, therein lies:

  • A voicemail from Captain Tortuga of the S.S. Isopod, who’s delivery on the RCPJ project is a bit earlier than expected.
  • Mr. Newquist‘s review of the latest Magic: The Gathering digital game, which seems to told more than a passing interest for him.
  • My fifth report as the Lair’s CMO, in which I discuss the pitfalls of planning lunar missions around NASA’s schedule, RCPJ specifications, and Minister Lynn’s consistent need for topical anti-pruritic unguents.

Go here and listen, else when the Overlords’ time comes, you will be the first into servitude.

Weekly Rounds

  • The Baltimore Business Journal published a piece on the efforts that I, and other individuals at Lifebridge Health, have been undertaking to use social media to communicate about H1N1. Ironically, said article is available to paid subscribers only (which I am not).

Humor as a Reasoned Response

I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do influenza and vaccination outreach of late, which have brought some basic points to mind:

  • Physicians, as a whole, tend not to engage in public discourse about important medical topics, for a variety of reasons.
  • Those that do sometimes don’t communicate in ways that resonate with the target audience.
  • Those that are successful in this (some do quite well, Steve Novella being an easy example, and it’s something I’m working towards) have a clear voice, and a knack for making their message both interesting and accessible.

The reason this latter point is key is because being honest with science means that one can’t be as simply definitive with their statements as they’d like to be. An excellent case in point is that I don’t say that “childhood vaccines don’t cause autism,” but rather that “there’s no credible scientific evidence that childhood vaccines cause autism, no plausible mechanism by which vaccine components could contribute to autism,” etc… Someone with less of an understanding of the scientific process may hear this and decide that it reflects uncertainty on my part, whereas it represents a firm evidence-based viewpoint, tempered by insight that the scientific process is ever growing and making new discoveries that build on the body of knowledge that has already been accrued. As Dara O’Briain says in the first video clip below, “science knows it doesn’t know everything… otherwise, it’d stop.”

What humans want are definitive statements about the world we live in, regardless of our level of education or understanding of the world around us. Reality is an amazingly complex and nuanced thing, and it is often difficult to describe components of it both accurately and unequivocally, even as it relates to a (relatively) straightforward infection like influenza, for example. The influenza vaccine is very effective… but not 100% so in all people. If you wash your hands frequently, especially after pubic exposures, you will greatly reduce your chances of getting influenza… but not completely. And so on.

As such, a reasoned response to a misinformed opinion about a medical topics, no matter how sincere, is sometimes unable to overcome the wrong statement that contains no uncertainty. As such, as I noted recently, scientific outreach can often be more effective when portrayed in an entertaining and creative way. As Joe recently pointed out, humor often goes further in education than a reasoned response.

Dara O’Briain is a comedian in the UK who uses humor to great effect in discussing pseudoscience and medical quackery. While his routine in the clip below is dealing primarily with homeopathy and the false “balance” of medical reporting, it’s remarkable how resonant it is in terms of the current sensationalist fearmongering in H1N1 media coverage in the US:

While not so outright funny, this short clip is a brief, interesting deconstruction of Dara’s routine by himself and fellow comedian David Mitchell:

Weekly Rounds

Rather, weekly rounds for last week. I blame the following for the tardiness:

A Stout and Unflagging Woodsman

Hardcore Carbo Loading, photo: mattagogo via Flickr
Hardcore Carbo Loading, photo: mattagogo via Flickr

“An international team of experts has flown to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to try to recover two highly radioactive nuclear batteries that were found by woodsmen near a mountainous region.”

New York Times, January 2002

The growl of cold air before sunrise says to pull
buttons quick to button holes. Layers of thick wool,
our wives dress us right, fill our stomachs full
of hot grain, cooked slow as on those early school
mornings when we were young. My brother’s bowl
will empty first, refill twice. The women lull
our boy-calves to sleep, then wave us bulls
to distant forests for two days to cut wood. Tools

sing in our four gloved hands as we chop trees, travel
through dense growth. We live for this. Axes never dull,
we anticipate each day. Snowshoes etch their jewels
on white dust, raised and catching light. Soon hours mull
colors of dusk onto our tired faces. We huddle
together for warmth but cannot sleep. Even a skull
feels cold in this frigid landscape. Sergei walks out, calls
my name, points to where the snow now puddles

a hundred steps away. Those cans must be full
of hot oil, he guesses, though we’re not sure all
that means. We tie firm logging ropes to pull
the shapes toward camp. We hope they’ll
share their heated breath, keep our bodies still
until we wake to fly inland like gulls
we saw by water once as boys. Instead, hulls
replace our stomachs, rocking, heads aswirl.

We call to one another, Mother, anyone who’ll
hear us cry. What are these objects? Were we fools
to take them for our own? Before they came, a scowl
of cold was all we feared. Shared prayers now fill
our reddening hands, sour throats. And God will
try to hear us, hold us close, until dawn scrolls
her burning grace across this pall
to bear us home.

What the Woodsmen Found, Janice Dabney

Let it be known that Matt F’n’ Wallace is a woodsman who uses his eternal turgor in the interests of science, and I cannot express higher approval than I bestow upon him for this. That is all.

Fight the flu. Come to a Tweetup.

A series of events in a schizophrenic Choose Your Own Adventure novel?  No.

Two of the least fruitful commands to attempt in any of the Zork games?  Perhaps.

Seemingly unrelated but inexplicably intertwined items on my to-do list for Thursday evening?  Quite so.

From Lifebridge Health’s website:

When: Thursday, October 15, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

Where: Little Havana,
1325 Key Highway, Baltimore, MD 21230
410-837-9903

What: To kick off cold and flu season (i.e., help people avoid getting sick), LifeBridge Health is hosting a Tweetup. Join Sinai’s John Cmar, M.D., (@cmaaarrr) and LifeBridge infectious disease experts for giveaways, door prizes and a look at what we’re doing to spread the word about the importance of washing your hands.

Here’s your chance to meet other Baltimore Tweeps face-to-face for happy hour. Enter our fishbowl raffle, and you could win a GPS Garmin, a French press, Little Havana gift certificates and more!

Cost: Free. Guests may purchase food and drinks.

Questions? Tweet us at @LBHealth.

Visit WashYourHandsMaryland.org for more ways to beat colds and flu (both H1N1 and seasonal) this year.

For the record, I did suggest a Cuban martial artist with the word FLU tattooed across his bare chest be at the Tweetup to randomly spar with attendees, but that idea was summarily rejected. “It was his hourly fee, or the GPS” I was told. I still maintain that would have been a better raffle prize…

Pit-fighting or no, if you are in the Baltimore area, stop by Little Havana on Thursday evening.  It will be fun, because I will make it so.  And don’t think I can’t.

Hail, Miskatonic!

Propnomicon is a Cthulhu aficionado of great refinement and education, as well as a propmaker extraordinaire.  His website is an amazing resource not only for tutorials on how to make period-specific props that evoke both Lovecraftian and other horror themes, but also to showcase his own brilliant work, and the excellent projects and how-to’s of other designers that he has come across.  I am particularly fond of his “things in a bottle,” several of which I am fortunate to own, and grace the desk in my office at the hospital:

Miskatonic Parasite Specimen, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic Parasite Specimen - front view, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic Parasite Specimen - side view, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic Parasite Specimen - side view, photo: Propnomicon

Recently, he has unveiled the sheet music for the official school song of Miskatonic University – “Hail, Miskatonic.”  John Cmar (class of 1826), my ancestor and namesake, co-wrote this catchy and popular piece. Click through the image to view the original post and get the full high-resolution sheet music:

Hail, Miskatonic - page 1, image: Propnomicon
Hail, Miskatonic - page 1, image: Propnomicon
Hail, Miskatonic - page 2, image: Propnomicon
Hail, Miskatonic - page 2, image: Propnomicon

Be sure to check out his website for more Cthulhian goodness, as well as his Miskatonic University expedition swag on Zazzle and sundry goods on eBay.  Today, he has posted a limited edition Miskatonic University Prop Set for sale, which is exceptionally cool:

Miskatonic University Prop Set, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic University Prop Set, photo: Propnomicon

It’s limited to a run of 100 copies, so if you have any interest, I highly recommend you check it out.

Weekly Rounds