10:23 A Survivor’s Experience

Well, 10:23 has come and gone and we all seem to be standing.  This does not surprise any of the participants.  So your friendly neighbourhood contributor, upgraded from guest blogger, will live to protest quack medicines another day.

Homeopaths criticized it as a ‘stunt’ but did not think we’d be harmed.
(There were some charges levelled on Twitter about all of us being in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies.  One because the campaign was too well organized to be grassroots…if we were I have yet to get my cheque). More than that, they started to speak of ‘individual cases’ which is quite funny as we were protesting the sale of a mass-made marketed brand carried by a major pharmacy chain.  Perhaps, they should have been protesting with us to charge  Boots with co-opting and commercializing their ‘practice.’ But that would be the pot calling the kettle black as most Alternative Medicines are basically a giant marketing tool for pushing pills or other dubious products.

This was brought to light by the lecture at Trick or Treatment (held after the 10:23 event, and the reason it was held that day), by the man who has brought to us Quackometer, Andy Lewis.  Quack medicines come in disturbing forms such as Biometric Shields, which apparently shield you from the problems of modern day life, such as electromagnetic radiation.  The basic lack of science understanding by people duped by this sort of nonsense is mind-boggling.   One source of such radiation, of course, is THE SUN.  Perhaps they just aren’t saying which part of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum these devices protect against…

So the protest.  There were various groups across the globe from, the UK, to Australia to Canada and the US.  The big issue with the UK is the report by the Select Committee on the efficacy of Homeopathy which is to be released very shortly.  Homeopathic remedies, hospitals and doctors cost the NHS £4 million a year.   That’s a lot for sugar pills.  Anyone on a waiting list for mental health services, surgeries and other proven or at least studied practices, would probably like a  re-allocation of those funds.   But to be fair, that’s a fraction spent on Chaplaincy at over £32 million.

So what was the protest like?  It was cold.  There was some snow on the ground and it was definitely below zero.  However, everyone seemed to be chuffed at taking part and there was a jovial feeling to the entire event.  I spent most of the time recording video for some the Pod Delusion and the consensus was that a) no one was scared b) all that would possibly happen would be a sugar rush.

Me, James O’Malley, Simon Singh

Lib-Dem MP Evan Harris told us about the Select Committee Report and some of the hilarious responses of those giving evidence for Homeopathy, including the importance of ‘shaking’ the solutions.  They can’t be stirred but there has been no research on how they should be stirred, ie rigour, length etc.  Which just serves to highlight the lack of science behind these magic pills.

61271636 by ten23campaign

Evan Harris & Co.

I can tell you, I have never been so interested in a Select Committee Report before.

In the end, we all downed our bottles of 30C diluted sugar pills.  All I can say in support of these remedies is that they are quite tasty.  They’d make a good candy or an addition to my tea.  As a first protest, it was quite fun, and I talked to many other sceptics in the movement and from the general sceptical community – from those who also contribute to the Pod Delusion, bloggers like Jack of Kent and those lovely people from Skeptics in the Pub.

So if you are a sceptic/skeptic, know that you are not alone.    Perhaps, even with our relative small numbers, we will make a difference and raise some awareness.  Whether there is harm or not, 200 year old quack practices should not form a part of modern medicine or at least, if claim to be medicinal, should have to adhere to the same standards as the rest of the medical industry.  In this light, homeopathy and it’s ilk will never pass the test.

And if you are interested, keep an eye on the 10:23 website for continuing coverage!

10:23 – Participant’s Perspective

It is I once again, your friendly neighborhood Guest Blogger, sillypunk!

As Mr. Topp has blogged previously, there is going to be a protest regarding the sale of Homeopathic remedies by Boots.  The 10:23 site has many links and stories regarding why Homeopathy is a) useless b) bad.

I wasn’t intending on joining the protest originally, mainly because I never protest anything but decided to go as I was going to the Trick or Treatment lectures that day at Conway Hall anyway.   The protest has been receiving considerable cover; all the major UK papers have covered it, with opinions ranging from that held by the organizers to ‘what harm will it do?’

Well.  I suppose in the end, it really does no harm to those that take it (unless they suffer from a nocebo effect), and perhaps they may benefit from the placebo effect, or a sugar rush.  It is quite funny, I have my bottle of 30C Belladonna and it has NO active ingredients.   It states: 84 Sucrose/lactose pillules.  As well as ‘A homeopathic medicinal product without approved therapeutic indications.’  I seriously can’t believe that they can get away with charging almost £5 a bottle.  And its a tiny bottle, more like a Smarties tube rather than a bottle of pills.  I suppose eating a tube of smarties would have the same sugar rush effect as my 30C Belladonna. 

But there is harm.  One only has to gasp in disbelief and horror at the High Dose Vitamin treatment offered in South Africa for treatment of HIV/AIDS.  Or the anti-Vaccination crowd bringing back in fashion easily preventable childhood illnesses.  Alternative treatments, in that light, are certainly very, very harmful. 

If people want to believe in homeopathic or other remedies, fine.  Just don’t call them ‘treatments, medicine, medicinal etc.’ because they are not.  It’s faith healing in the end.   They shouldn’t even be in the pharmacy for the credit it lends them.   I understand the perils and problems within modern medical science and the huge quagmire of scary that is the pharmaceutical industry but in the end, if I’m ill or injured, they fix me.   There is an entire infrastructure testing, developing, (marketing, sadly), researching and improving the rates of survival for many diseases and injuries.  I don’t think any alternative therapies invest in such things (there are some tiny studies that demonstrate its effectiveness to be similar to the placebo effect though). 

But for every alternative remedy that survives and is essentially funded by these quack medicines being sold, the more likely people like Matthias Rath can peddle vitamin pills as a cure for AIDS.   So, that in the end is why I decided to do this protest.  Wincing at the fact that we had to buy them (we tried to buy them ironically but the cashier didn’t understand the joke), I will be taking my sugar pills with water at 10:23 on January 30th.  To be fair, I”ll need the sugar, I’m out late the night before at a concert

If I survive, which I’m fairly confident I will, I’ll regale you all with tales of sugar pill popping and scepticism.

One Year In: A Bastard’s Perspective

One year ago, Mr. Topp started a D&D 4E campaign for his friends. His players have all done little to no roleplaying prior to joining the game — Mr. Topp’s first experience with an entirely novice group since childhood.

Regular Big Bad Blog contributer and game member Sillypunk (blog/twitter) gives her initial impression of the roleplaying game below.

We hope it makes sense to people who are not in the game itself.

It has been one year since the Big Bad Blogger has brought us new, rag-tag bunch of role players together.  I wasn’t exactly a virgin to the land of Dungeons and Dragons but I was certainly inexperienced.  My only adventure to date was when I was 16 in high school.  Our game play lasted about 4 sessions before degrading into watching strange videos brought in by our DM and generally devolving into random conversation.  I recall that my character was a mage of some sort and that our entire band of people was cursed.  The DM and most of the other players were in grade 12 and so there was a bit of an intimidation factor going on.

With this game I had a better understanding of what D&D was.  My knowledge was basically from general pop culture references and also knowing some others interested in role playing.  Still, there is a lot of input from general experience in game play that was missing.  It is easy enough to say I know what the rules are but interpreting events, goals and the actions of other characters is easier said than done.

My main concern with starting out was ‘Holy crap, I don’t want to die.’  I think this was reflected by most of those playing.  We were VERY tentative with our actions; coming up with elaborate and ridiculous plots and schemes to get us out of tough situations, which then turned out really not to be as dire as we thought.  The turning point, I think, came after our first actual skirmish.  Time for the Dice.    Within that skirmish, you figure out how everything works and the feel of the game begins to take shape and make sense.  It answered questions and sort of broke that initial tension.   We kind of knew how to handle things, what all these skills and feats were for and how to use them in a fight.  Also, how fickle a mistress the dice can be.

I should perhaps mention my character.  I wanted to be a bastard.  This was my goal, no namby pampy mage person this time. No. I was a half-elf/human, bastard son abandoned in the forest.  A rogue, thief, liar, perhaps a bit of a coward but a fun person to play.  One of my favourite moments was when A. was guest playing one day.  Her father had been kidnapped and we were supposed to rescue him.  My response, “how much do you love your father?”  Not really taken with the idea of going to rescue him.  Another when we had almost finished our first major goal in the game but were all dying very quick.  There were mages on our asses and every turn we were losing HP.  Two of our group decided to fight, I decided to get the hell out of dodge.  Screw ’em, they are dead.   I did the noble thing and help rescue them though, so I guess I’m not all bad.

The best part of the game is the humour that Mr. Topp interjects into the game play.  Sometimes, his characters that pop up from time to time to give us advice, send us on errands or that we have to defeat are a bit intimidating but in different ways.  There are the Baddies, who are generally difficult to defeat or we have to figure out a way to steal stuff from them but then there are the one’s that are a bit…well…you don’t know why they are helping you.   My favourite character by far is Bob.  He’s a bartender in a bar that seems to be in all places at all times.  We often end up in Bearclaw and the bit of banter enters the surreal.  It’s never a dull moment with Bob.  It is many of those kinds of details that keep me interested in the game.  I like to get a sense of the entire world and Mr. Topp has more than supplied enough richness and detail in the world for my imagination to invest in.

I think as a group we have gained some more confidence but are still hesitant in some of our actions.  We are all over the fights and skirmishes but when it comes to overall strategy and plans we are more lost, sort of flying by the seat of your pants gaming.  We go where we are chased out of, fleeing from or sent on a mission to without much kind of real idea of why we made that decision.  However, I think we have a definite feel for our characters and genuinely do like playing them and interacting with each other in the game.

We’ll see what happens in year two.  Will we get the Orb?  WILL WE? All I know is we are going to Germany and everyone has paid me back the gold I lent them.  I have shuriken and enough arrows to last me awhile.  I’m a bit afraid of G.’s Axe as it seems to be possessing him and making him insane but we’ll jump that hurdle when we get to it.  Onward to year two!

Afternoon Tea: Pre-holiday edition

The clock is ticking down to when a jolly fat man coming down a chimney is not considered home invasion.   I am still chained behind my desk but I have a hot cup of tea and so you should have some too.

In the scary, negligent parent category with have this story.  And stupid parent category we have the balloon boy parents going to jail for the hoax.

I think this is why I wasn’t able to purchase Henry Rollins tickets the other night.   I’m sure that didn’t panic EVERYONE right before Christmas.

I’m afraid what this picture says about me…

Missed out on science news in 2009?  Well here’s a handy round up for you.

This amused me but I think getting people on Genesis TV to quote Bad Religion lyrics may not be the hardest thing to do.   You wonder what exactly you could get them to say?  I say someone try Iron Maiden or Judas Priest.

E-merl.com – New Experiments In Fiction