Bonnie & Clyde

You can see me in the photo at the left kneeling by a headstone in a forlorn, weed-infested graveyard in a bad part of Dallas, Texas.  The remains below that headstone are none other than those of Clyde Barrow, the male half of the notorious duo who ravaged the the southern states in the late 1920s/ early 1930s, and who were made famous to our generation by the hit movie Bonnie & Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway  and Warren Beatty.  In real life, just as in the movie, Bonnie and Clyde drove into an ambush in rural Louisiana where they met their ends in a hail of bullets on May 23, 1934.

How I came to be in this dreary place on a rainy day started with a story my dad told MD and me on our last trip to visit the folks in Michigan.  I can’t remember now how it came up, but he started telling us about the time he saw the remains of Adam “Eddie” Richetti, the sidekick of Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd in a funeral home in Bolivar, Missouri.  My father grew up on a farm near a little town called Halfway, which is ‘halfway’ between Bolivar and Buffalo.  For the folks in Halfway, Bolivar was the closest ‘big’ town where everyone went to shop.  At that time, Halfway was basically a wide spot in the road.

In June 1933 ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd and Adam Richetti (shown at right) stopped off to get their stolen car fixed at Bitzer Chevrolet where Richetti’s brother, Joe, worked as a mechanic.  As they were cooling their heels there, the Polk County Sheriff who lived in Bolivar, William Killingsworth, wandered in.  My dad didn’t know if he just happened in or if he had heard the gangsters might be there.  I suspect the former since he didn’t come in with guns drawn.  Floyd and Richetti took him captive at gun point, took Joe’s car and lit out for Kansas City.  Along the way they ditched Joe’s car, stole another vehicle, switched their hostages (they had collected another along the way) over, and kept on traveling.  Before they reached Kansas City, they let Killingsworth and the other hostage go by the side of the road, and drove off.  They reached Kansas City, and there was where the story went murky.

At the same time Floyd and Richetti were driving to Kansas City, unknown to them, an escaped fugitive was on his way there as well.  Federal agents had captured Frank Nash, an escapee from a federal prison, in a store in MD’s home town Hot Springs, Arkansas.  The agents drove him from Hot Springs to Fort Smith, Arkansas where he was passed off to other agents who took him aboard a train bound for Kansas City.  Upon arrival there, other agents arrived to transport him to the jail.  As they were getting out of the car, they were fired upon by men who jumped out of a green Plymouth parked nearby.   Nash and several of the lawmen were killed in the gun battle.

These murders took place right outside of Union Station in Kansas City and came to be known as the Kansas City Massacre.  Prior to this event, federal agents were unarmed.  As happens so often after many such tragic events, legislators stampede into making laws that are sometimes not well thought out.  In this case they decided to pass a law authorizing federal agents to carry arms, and, in the process, made J. Edgar Hoover, who then commanded a national police force of armed agents, the most powerful man in the country.

With virtually no evidence on hand, the feds put it out that Floyd and Richetti were behind the Kansas City Massacre.  By the time this announcement came out, the two were shacked up in Buffalo, NY with a couple of molls.  When they got wind that they were the suspects, they grabbed their girls and took off for Oklahoma.  On the way their car broke down in Ohio.  While there, local lawmen captured Richetti, but Floyd escaped only to be gunned down a couple of days later.

Richetti was convicted of aiding and abetting an escape and was sentenced to two years in the federal pen.  But, more seriously, he was also convicted of murder by the State of Missouri for his alleged part in the Kansas City Massacre.  Although there was virtually no evidence linking either Floyd or Richetti to the event, Richetti was sentenced to the gallows.  Instead of hanging, however, he got the dubious honor of becoming the first person to be executed in the new gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary.  After he was gassed, his body was sent to his brother in Bolivar and Richetti was finally laid to rest in a cemetery in Bolivar.  During the viewing at the Boliver funeral home, my dad was one of the many people who lined up to see Richetti.

After my dad told me this story, I did a little online searching to see what I could find about Richetti and Floyd, and during my search, I came across information about other famous gangsters of the time.  I discovered that both Bonnie and Clyde were laid to rest in Dallas, Texas after they were gunned down in Louisiana.  I knew I was going to be in Dallas for our oldest grandchild’s grandparent’s day at school, so I decided to track down the final resting places of the infamous duo.

I discovered Bonnie had been laid to rest in a cemetery quite close to our son’s and DIL’s house.  Bonnie Parker now resides in the Crown Hill Memorial Park, which is at the intersection of a couple of busy Dallas streets.  MD and I set out on a gloomy, rainy day underneath a sullen sky to find her.  With our never-travel-without-it GPS device, it was easy to find the cemetery, but took some time to find Bonnie’s grave.

The Crown Hill Memorial Park is a nicely kept cemetery and is large – at least if you’re looking stone by stone on a chilly rainy day for one in particular.  After about 45 minutes of searching, we found Bonnie’s headstone tucked in behind a hedge.  In the photo below, her stone is about halfway down the left side of the long hedge in the Sunset Garden section of the graveyard.

Bonnie graveyard

Bonnie’s mother was most surely responsible for the wording on Bonnie’s headstone and is buried next to Bonnie.  In fact, it was Bonnie’s mother’s stone I found first because it stands up a little more than Bonnie’s and wasn’t covered with dirt.

Bonnie and mama

When I finally did find Bonnie’s marker, I had to sweep the dirt off of it in order to take the photo.  As dirty as it was, it’s a wonder I was able to find it.  As you can see from the inscription on the headstone, to her mother, Bonnie wasn’t the vicious outlaw she was in reality, but was Mamma’s little girl.  Which, I suppose, is as it should be.

Bonnie's grave

I wonder how many of the people Bonnie terrorized, robbed and maybe even killed would share the sentiments her mother put on her stone?

After visiting Bonnie’s grave, we fired up the GPS and headed for Clyde’s final resting place.  Our trip took us to a pretty dicey part of Dallas.  I don’t know what it was like in Clyde’s day (probably not much different, I would imagine), but today his cemetery is in a neighborhood of falling down homes and jacked up house trailers all in various states of disrepair.  The area is being encroached on all sides by various industrial operations.

The Western Heights Cemetery, Clyde’s place of interment, is as rundown as the area in which it exists.  It was the perfect cemetery to roam through on a gray, chilly day.  As you can see from the photo below, the graveyard is overgrown with knee high weeds and looks like the perfect setting for some kind of Halloween horror movie.  We had to pull the car off of a busy street onto a muddy, rutted road with a chain across the entry way.  It was a new chain, which begs the question: what happened to the old one?

Clyde graveyard

Although the Western Heights Cemetery is much smaller than the Crown Hill Memorial Park, it took longer to find the grave we were searching for because of the overgrowth of weeds.  We finally found it near the edge of the graveyard overlooking the busy street we had come from.

As you can see from the headstone Clyde is buried next to his brother Marvin, aka ‘Buck,’ who was gunned down by lawmen about a year before Clyde.

Clyde grave

Due to the overcast day, it was difficult – even with a flash – to get good contrast on the photo of the headstone (which, like Bonnie’s, was also covered with dirt and had to be swept clean).  The sentiment – Gone but not forgotten – isn’t nearly as from the heart as is the one on Bonnie’s stone.

The Western Hills Cemetery must be the final resting place of the entire Barrow clan because there were at least a half dozen Barrow stones all in the same area.

What had never occurred to me until I found these graves and subtracted dates is how young these two people were. Bonnie wasn’t quite 24 and Clyde had just turned 25.  Because of the movie and their legend and larger-than-life status, it’s hard to believe that basically they were just kids.  Mean kids, no doubt, but still, just kids.  I guess much like with people who get involved with gangs today, those who chose gangsterism as a career in the early part of the 20th century didn’t need to worry about saving for their pensions either.

The Drs. Eades & Julia…and radio

I have to confess.  I lied to you.  I said the next post would be part II of the Meat Eater or Vegetarian series and here I am sticking another one in in between.  But I at least have a good reason for this interloper post: it is time sensitive.

Due to other commitments tomorrow and Monday (see below for the Monday commitment) I more than likely won’t be able to get the promised post up before Tuesday.  I was working away on it this afternoon (actually alternating between writing the post and dealing with comments) when my bride came in and whined for me to go to a movie I didn’t really want to see.  But, being the dutiful and obliging spouse that I am, I went.  And I was glad I did.

MD just finished the book Julie & Julia and was hot to see the movie.  I hadn’t read the book, and don’t plan on it, so I was lukewarm at best on the idea.  But I’m glad I relented because the movie is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while.  MD and I related to it on a number of levels.  We written books and have been through all the publisher snafus that Julia experienced.  We know what it’s like to have a cooking show.  And we’ve been through the blogging experience.  But, unlike the heroine of the blog and book, we’ve actually met Julia.

In the summer of 2000, a couple of friends of ours who own Al Forno, a famous restaurant in Providence, RI, arranged for MD and me to be a part of a huge fundraiser for the Providence Public Library.  It got worked out in such a way that MD and I attended as – get this – celebrity chefs.  Chefs? I still don’t know how it happened because our cooking show hadn’t even been conceived of at that time and we had just published The Protein Power LifePlan a few months earlier.  But there we were as celebrity chefs with – get this, too – Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Child.  And, as they say, that’s not all.  We were there with Billy Joel as well.  Yep, Billie, Emeril, Jacques, Julia, MD and me – the celebs brought out to raise money for the Providence Public Library.  It was kind of surreal.

When I was introduced to Julia, I told her I was delighted to meet her and that my wife and I lived in her home town.  I knew she lived in Santa Barbara, and MD and I had been living there for about a year at the time – if you could call it living there.  We actually lived primarily in Incline Village, Nevada and Santa Fe, New Mexico, but we did spent a fair amount of time in Santa Barbara, where we lived aboard a sailboat in the marina when we were in town.  So, I was more or less honest when I said we lived in Santa Barbara.

Julia Child was a big woman.  And I don’t mean fat, I mean big.  She’s well over six feet tall and is imposing even stooped a bit as she was then at age almost 90.  As we shook hands she replied to my remark about living in her home town in her wonderful, warble-y, quivery voice, “Which home town? Santa Barbara or Cambridge, Massachusetts?”  And she moved when she spoke just as Meryl Streep portrays her in the movie.

Until that moment, I hadn’t realize she lived anywhere but Santa Barbara, but it just so happened that MD and I had just purchased a condo in Cambridge a few months before.  Our eldest son, wife and first grandchild were moving to the Boston area for a year while our son clerked with a federal judge.  We bought the condo and they rented it from us.  So, I answered her that we lived both places.  Which, of course, was a stretch since we lived part time on a boat in one and owned a rental condo in the other, but, hey, I was among real celebrities so I had to act the part.

In the years between that first meeting and her death, we saw her a dozen or so times around Santa Barbara.  She frequented a lot of the same restaurants we did and was a regular at the farmer’s market.  But other than the time we chatted a bit at the Providence Library shindig, neither MD nor I ever spoke with her again.  We would say hello if we passed one another, but that’s it.  I’m sure she didn’t have a clue we had met before.  Having had the interaction with her that we did, made the movie a little more poignant for us.  I now wish we had made the effort to get to know her while we had the chance.

Julia had to deal with her publisher and with promoting her various books.  And we do too.  One of the things authors agree to when they sign a publishing contract is to make themselves available for various publicity events.  MD and I have done the book tour routine (which is miserable), appeared on countless TV shows and radio shows, and shown up for innumerable book signings.   None of these PR events are particularly fun, but the most loathsome PR event of all takes place this coming Monday.  It is the dreaded radio satellite tour.

There is a certain type of PR agent that books these kinds of things, which involve scheduling numerous radio shows one right after the other with military precision.  The shows start on drive time radio on the East Coast and move west with the sun.

We will start at 6:50 AM Eastern, which is 3:50 AM our time, and be on the radio pretty much non-stop throughout the day.  A number of you have asked in the comments if we are going to be appearing anywhere.  Right now, this is all that is scheduled.  I’ve posted the schedule below so that if we’re on a station in your neck of the woods, you’ll be able to listen should you chose to.

It will be a grueling day for us, but somehow we’ll manage to keep our good cheer through it all.  A thousand cups of coffee will help.  Hope you get to listen in to part of it.

MAM pg 1

A request for information

Legg blog

The grisly plaster cast pictured above of the flayed corpse of a hanged murderer has quite a history.

On October 2, 1801, Mr James Legg shot one William Lambe to death in the latter’s bedroom.  Apparently the 73 year old Mr. Legg had been nursing a grudge against Lambe for some time.  As Mr. Lambe was awakening on the morning of Oct 2, Mr. Legg, gun in hand, confronted him, thrust a second pistol at him and challenged him to a duel to settle their differences.  Mr. Lambe tossed the proffered pistol out the door of his room whereupon Mr. Legg fired upon Mr. Lambe, killing him instantly.

Mr. Lambe’s wife witnessed the murder, but Mr. Legg admitted to it as well.  His trial took place on Oct 28, 1801.  He was sentenced to death, and his execution by hanging took place on Nov 2, a month to the day after the deed was done.  Justice was swift in those days.

So far, it’s just a run of the mill murder, but here’s where it gets interesting. During the time Mr. Legg was awaiting his trial and subsequent execution, three members of the Royal Academy of Arts – sculptor Thomas Banks and painters Benjamin West and Richard Cosway – had been debating the notion that artistic depictions of the crucifixion of Christ had been portrayed unrealistically.  They wondered what an anatomically correct crucifixion would really look like.

The three contacted a surgeon, Joseph Carpue, to help them with their anatomical inquiries.  At that time the only corpses legally available for dissection were those of convicted criminals who had been executed.  Carpue knew of the murder by Legg since both the perp and the victim were pensioners at Chelsea Hospital, where Carpue practiced.  Using his influence, Carpue was able to get possession of Legg’s corpse after his execution.

On the day of the execution, a small building was put up near the the site.  A cross was made and at the ready.  When the fresh corpse was cut from the gallows and transported to the waiting team, they stripped Legg, nailed him to the cross, and stood it up, allowing his still warm body to fall into the anatomically correct crucifixion position.

After the body had cooled and rigor mortis had set in, Banks, the sculptor, made a cast of the body.  Then the body was moved (maintaining its ‘correct’ position) to Carpue’s operating theatre where he proceeded to flay (remove the skin) from the corpse of the unfortunate Mr. Legg.  Banks made yet another cast, this one showing the position of the musculature in an anatomically correct crucifixion.  This is the cast pictured at the top of this post.

In an effort to keep this post in the realm of the nutritional, I might point out that Mr. Legg was definitely not obese.  He was probably pretty standard weight for his time.  He would have indeed stood out at Disneyland.

Now that you’ve had the history lesson, let me give you my request.  When MD and I opened our first little medical clinic years ago, a neurosurgeon friend of ours gave us a book on this gruesome episode.  It was a small book, well bound, and from a small press, the name of which I can’t remember.  We kept the book in the medical reference library in the clinic.  As the clinic grew, other doctors began working there with us. We finally grew out of our little clinic, and as I was packing the reference books to move, I realized that the book on the Legg affair had gone missing.

I’ve kept my ear to the ground since figuring that I would run across another copy I could pick up, but, as of yet, I haven’t.  I don’t remember the title of the book, nor do I remember the publisher.  But, I would love to have another copy.  So, if anyone happens to know the name of this book or even the publisher, drop me a note through the comments.  I would really appreciate it.

I happened to stumble across the photo of the cast of the flayed Mr. Legg while searching for something else this weekend.  I spent about three hours searching online, but alas had no luck finding the book. Nor any photos other than the one above. But I did find an account of Mr. Legg’s trial, such as it was, complete with verbatim testimony of various witnesses.

You can read it in its entirety here in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey.

I love the language they used two hundred years ago.  Here is an example.

The prosecuting attorney, a Mr. Fielding, begins his questioning of the victims wife:

You are the wife of the deceased; tell the story of the melancholy event that took place on the 2d of October?

Mrs. Lambe then gives her eyewitness version of the event:

I got up in the morning a little before seven; Mr. Legg was walking about the common room, swearing, and quite in an ill humour, I thought; I asked him what was the matter, when he began to swear the more, and said, I will turn you out of the room, if you speak another word; my husband was then in bed and asleep; I thought I heard him stirring, and opened the door to see; he had just got out of the bed, when the prisoner rushed past me, and put a pistol into his hand; he took it, turned it about, and looked at it, and said, what is this for; the room was dark, and then he threw it into the common room; my husband had just put on a little flannel waistcoat, and stood up against the door; the prisoner then, after my husband had thrown the pistol away, rushed up immediately, and fired at him, as he saw him through the glass door; when he had done so, he looked at me, and said, I have done it; I saw the blood coming out of his breast, and I cried out, murder; he fell directly; and expired; he endeavoured to call my name, but could not.

A bit later in her testimony, Mr. Fielding asks her if there was any ill-will between her husband and Mr. Legg.

She responds:

God knows what ill-will he had, but my husband had none towards him; I took him to be a very solid man, for he washed his own linen, cooked his own victuals, and took the sacrament regularly, so I thought he was a man rather better than what he has turned out.

Indeed!

So, if anyone has info on the book about this ‘melancholy event,’ please send it my way.  If I end up with the much-coveted book in my hand, I’ll see that whomever tips me off first gets a free, autographed copy of our new book when it comes out next month.  Thanks in advance.

Snake oil comes in all kinds of bottles

Snake oil comes in many guises, most of which exist to reduce the contents of one’s purse.  Last week an Associated Press writer detailed how the government spent $2.5 billion of our money to test various so-called alternative health remedies, most of which would be considered snake oil by mainstream medicine, and came up virtually empty handed.

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

Acupuncture and some of the hands-on manipulative therapies fared a little better.

As for therapies, acupuncture has been shown to help certain conditions, and yoga, massage, meditation and other relaxation methods may relieve symptoms like pain, anxiety and fatigue.

The article didn’t give a rundown of every alternative or non-mainstream therapy tested, so I don’t know what they all are, but I can add one to the list if it wasn’t tested in this $2.5B testorama.  I would add the use of HCG for weight loss.

Many practitioners are using injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) injections coupled with an extremely low-calorie diet to help their patients lose weight.  Many practitioners and many patients swear by this regimen.  But, a number of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that the HCG regimen is no better than placebo.

But if this is so, how come so many patients and practitioners believe so strongly in this HCG/diet combo?  Simple answer.  Because it works.

But if it works, why is it a worthless regimen?  Because it doesn’t work any better than placebo.

If you go to a doctor who tells you that he/she is going to start you on an extremely powerful weight-loss program that involves multiple injections along with a stringent diet composed of specific foods to be eaten on a rigid time schedule (especially if these foods add up to only 500 calories per day), you will come away convinced that you are going to do well.  Especially after you’ve paid the bill, which is considerable in these HCG centers.

If you go in for all the injections and scrupulously follow the diet, you will lose a fair amount of weight pretty quickly.  And you will develop and unshakable believe that this regimen did the trick for you.  You will tell your friends, all of whom have witnessed your rapid weight loss, and they, too, (at least those who can afford it) will go to the same practitioner and fork over for the treatment.

Problem is this treatment works the same if the patients are given a salt-water shot or an HCG shot.  There is no difference in outcome.  The HCG doesn’t do diddly.  It’s the fact that you get a shot that makes the difference.  If you simply went on the 500 calorie per day diet you would lose the same.  But it’s the magic of receiving the shot, especially after being told (as most are) at the practitioner’s office that the shot will help overcome the hunger of being on a drastically calorically-reduced diet.  And it does.  But it doesn’t matter if it’s a saline shot or a dose of HCG.  It’s the magic of having something done.

Which is why in the $2.5 billion tests, the manipulative therapies worked and the others didn’t.  There is something about having a procedure done that makes you feel like your getting a more powerful treatment.

I can’t tell you how many people came in to see me when I had a regular medical practice who demanded a shot because they were convinced that shots worked better than oral medications.  For some things they do, but for most, they don’t.  But you couldn’t convince most of my patients of that.

There are a few of what many would consider alternative medicines that do work.  I posted on one that does here.  But, as the large conglomeration of studies reported on by the AP showed, most don’t.

As you might imagine, the report of the failure of most alternative therapies was like catnip to mainstream physicians, researchers and writers.  They were absolutely giddy with joy.  Here are just a few representative comments:

Well, since I’ve been bagging on the alt-med nonsense lately, I simply couldn’t pass up this headline.  And folks… the headline says it all… “No Alternative Cures Found”… Zilch… Nada… Zip… Zero!  Despite their inability to understand the most basic aspects of science and the associated math, I think that zero is a number that even alt-med woo-meisters can grasp 🙂

(Woo is the derogatory term these mainstreamers have come up with for any treatment or therapy not taught in traditional medical schools or developed by Big Pharma.)

I never thought I’d see it, but I have. After an a decent article on the infiltration of quackademic medicine into American medical centers and a very good article on cancer quackery, Marilyn Marchione of the AP has done it again:

AP IMPACT: $2.5B spent, no alternative med cures…

I’ve documented the woo funded by NCCAM on multiple occasions. I mean, NCCAM is funding studies of that woo of woos, homeopathy, fer cryin’ out loud! I”m [sic] glad that the mainstream media is finally noticing.

One more.

Here’s a shocker for you: after a decade and 2.5 billion (with a b, folks) dollars spent, a government study shows that almost no alternative medicines worked.

So, they used actual scientific testing processes instead of anecdotes, and found that most of these simply don’t work. Like I said: shocker.

… the studies have shown that most of these remedies don’t work. And will this change the minds of their advocates?

HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahaha! Oh man, sometimes I crack myself up.

This is just one more arrow in our quiver, but the alternative medicine believers will continue to move the targets around. Stay vigilant, and remember: people waste money, people get sick, and people die because of this antiscientific thinking. That’s why testing this, publicizing it, and fighting the misinformation is so important.

Believe me, this is just a small sampling of what I came across on the internet when I searched for links to the AP article.

Hostile and condescending as the tone of these remarks is, the people who made them are pretty much on the money.  These treatments need to be evaluated in the harsh glare of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.   Now they have been, and, just as with the HCG regimen for weight loss, they’ve been found lacking.

But that’s not necessarily the end of the story.  We don’t know the details about these studies.  Was there just one study for each alternative therapy?  Or were there multiple studies, each of which demonstrated no effectiveness?  If just one, then the above criticisms may not be valid.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.  Just because we can’t get a positive result in one study doesn’t mean there isn’t a positive result to be had.  Science is the continual testing of hypotheses until the evidence is overwhelming that the hypothesis is valid or it isn’t.  But even overwhelming evidence doesn’t always prove out in the long run.  Newton’s laws were held to be valid after centuries of testing, then Einstein came along.

What interests me so much about the glee with which these mainstreamers greet the failure of alternative medicine (at least the failure shown by $2.5B worth of research) is that the vast majority of these same folks believe in the notion that people are overweight because they eat too much and exercise too little, an idea that scientifically holds little water.  A myth, really.  But they all believe it because on the surface it seems to make sense to them.  All the scientifically valid arguments that, say, Gary Taubes makes fall on deaf ears.  (Here is a video of a recent lecture Gary gave to doctors at Dartmouth.  Do you think any of them were moved to give up their antiquated views by the science presented?  It’s highly doubtful.)

And while most of the people pooh poohing woo are doing so, they are out pushing statins for all their worth.  And statins – other than for a small group of people – have the same efficacy as the alternative medicines they are so quick to disparage.  Let’s see, how did that one writer put it?  “…Zilch… Nada… Zip… Zero!”

That’s right.  The category of drugs that are the top selling drugs worldwide have no efficacy in terms of reducing overall mortality, at least as shown by randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, in any group except men under the age of 65 who have been diagnosed with heart disease.  This doesn’t mean men under 65 who have elevated cholesterol, but men under 65 who have actually been diagnosed with heart disease or who have had a heart attack.  And even in that group, the efficacy is questionable.

The mainstreamers such as those quoted above don’t question the effectiveness of statins even though at least $2.5 billion has been spent to test them and found them lacking, but readily discount alternative medicines simply because they don’t fit with their belief system.  Based on the evidence at hand, I wouldn’t give people Echinacea, shark cartilage and all the rest because the studies show they don’t work better than placebo, but for all the same reasons, I wouldn’t give a patient a statin either.  In fact, I would probably give the Echinacea before I gave the statin because, as far as I know, no one has died taking Echinacea, of which the same can’t be said of statins.

If alternative medicines are going to be held to scientific standards, so should be pharmaceuticals.  Snake oil is snake oil no matter what its bottle it looks like.

Odds and ends May 21, 2009

verdi-after-party-small

I figure it’s about time for another grab bag of a post updating everyone on what’s going on at Casa Eades and throwing up a few interesting articles and websites.

The Verdi Requiem

The Santa Barbara Choral Society’s Verdi Requiem was a triumph last weekend.  As you can see from the photo above, MD was pretty whipped when it was over.  Apparently, it’s pretty demanding on soloists, orchestra and chorus.  And, as you can see from the photo above, the listeners don’t have the same burden.  Other photos here.  A recent review of the concert here.

The concert was pretty well attended, although not as well attended as it would have been had the entire city not been consumed with worry about the fire from the week before.  Santa Barbara is just now returning to normalcy.  The receipts from the door covered a little over 40 percent of what it cost to put on the production.  When I heard that figure, I thought the whole thing was a financial disaster, but I learned that that figure is typical for non-profit arts productions.  Around 40 percent of the cost comes from the people who buy tickets – the other 60 percent comes from patrons who sponsor the event.  In other words, the ticket prices are subsidized by the nobless oblige of the wealthy, a large number of whom consider it their obligation to support the arts.  So, next time you go to a great performance that costs you $25 to see, thank a rich person that you didn’t have to pay $60.

Twitter adventures

As anyone who has followed me on Twitter knows, I spend a lot of time reading and posting to Twitter since I first posted about it.  It’s a great way to do mini posts because users of Twitter are limited to 140 characters, so it’s tough to get too verbose.

I was pretty clueless about Twitter until I started using it, so I assume others are clueless as well.  If you are not in the know about this social networking tool and would like to keep up with these mini posts, there are a couple of ways you can do it.  You can sign up for Twitter and follow me (and anyone else you would like to follow).  It takes maybe one minute to sign up for Twitter.  All you need is a working email address and a username and you’re in.  Once you are a Twitteree (or whatever they’re called), and sign up to follow me, you can read these mini posts as I put them up.  If you want to sign up, click here and get started.  If you do start, you will probably find that a bunch of your own friends are using Twitter, so you can keep up with them as well.

The other way you can access these mini posts is by clicking on the little blue bird logo that says FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER.  If you click there, you will go to a page that gives you all the latest mini posts, but you’ll have to keep going back to get the updates as they come in.  Here is a link to the page you will find.

I occasionally Tweet (a Twitter mini post is called a Tweet, a loathsome word if there ever was one, at least when applied to activities of grown humans) on personal stuff, but mainly the Tweets are mini posts on medical articles or other news articles that I think are of interest along with anything else I find that strikes my fancy.

For those of you who do follow me on Twitter, I apologize for any Twitter faux paux I may have committed.  One of the things that most appealed to me about Twitter was the notion that I could put up these mini posts without anyone responding.  But, alas, I was wrong.  I discovered a few days ago that people can respond and several hundred have.  I was taking time from feverishly mini posting by looking around my Twitter home page when I found a highlighted link that said: @DrEades.  When I clicked there, I was appalled to find several hundred responses to Tweets I had made.  I learned that when people respond to Tweets, it ends up in that section.  So, I wasn’t off the hook.  But I couldn’t possibly respond to several hundred people – even at 140 characters a response.  So, if you replied to something I wrote and I didn’t respond, you now know what happened.

I did have a couple of interesting experiences in responding however.  When I discovered the @DrEades section and found the zillion responses to my Tweets waiting there, the most recent one was from a lady who took me to task for one (or several) of my political Tweets.  She wrote that she had always liked my nutritional writing but that my political postings had alienated her.  I decided to reply to her just to see how the whole reply thing worked.  I sent her one of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes:

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.

Then I watched her site and found that she had deleted the Tweet to me, which is how I learned that one could delete these things once they are up.  They can’t be changed, so if you make a grammatical error (which, sadly, I have done a few times) it can’t be fixed, only deleted.  Then she deleted me from her list of people she follows.  I guess the Thomas Jefferson quote alienated her even more.

People are really strange.  I posted a Tweet about an email that I had received a dozen times about how George Bush has a state of the art, energy-efficient ranch house in Crawford, TX while Al Gore has a giant, energy-gobbling house in Nashville.  I always ignored the email because I thought it probably was an urban legend kind of thing.  Then someone sent me a link to the Snopes report on it, which said that the email was true.  I posted the Snopes report on Twitter.  Then I started to wonder what makes Snopes the last word authority on everything, so I started looking into that.  I discovered that Snopes is a husband – wife team, who live in a double-wide house trailer on the outskirts of Los Angeles.  They do all the checking themselves.  I was stunned.  I always figured that Snopes was some kind of outfit with a staff of hundreds that checked out all these things.  The notion that the ultimate authority on everything was just a mom and pop operation who make their living by ads on their snopes.com website.  Now that I know the situation, I’ll be more careful when I accept snopes as the last word on everything.

I put up a Tweet that said basically Who would’ve thought Snopes was a mom and pop operation?  Some guy signed up to follow me on Twitter, and immediately sent a nastygram to @DrEades that said If Snopes is a mom and pop outfit, what does that make the Protein Power blog? A ‘Pop’ outfit?  I replied that the Protein Power blog is a ‘Pop’ operation, but isn’t considered by anyone to be the last word on everything.  He then deleted me from his list of people he followed. As I say, a lot of bizarre people in the weeds out there.

The whole experience has been very strange indeed.  But I’m still working my way through it, probably alienating people right and left.  So join up, follow me, and watch the fun.

Upcoming travel plans

MD and I are leaving late Sunday night for Hong Kong, then to Guangzhou, back to Hong Kong, then to London.  Sadly, the entire trip will be a working trip.  We’re hard at it in our efforts to change the world, and this trip is all about that.  By the time we get back, I should be able to write about what we’ve been working on.

I will take a lot of photos and continue to blog during the trip.  And Tweet.

Comments on the blog

I continue to be mired in comment woes.  I just checked, and I have 78 comments in moderation, some of which have been there for weeks.  It has kind of become a comments graveyard.

I’ve whined about the comment situation for that last two years. I’ve said that I wasn’t going to continue to answer questions and was just going to post the comments as they came in.  My resolve would last for about two days, then I was right back answering all the questions.  Now, I’ve gone into a funk over the whole thing, and have devolved into just ignoring the comments that require answering and letting them stack up, which I hate doing.  But, I’ve been so busy lately that there isn’t much else I can do.

I was reading a book titled Economic Sophisms by one of my heroes, Frederic Bastiat, when I came across the following paragraph that, in a way, applies to the comment situation.

We must admit that our opponents in this argument have a marked advantage over us.  They need only a few words to set forth a half-truth; whereas, in order to show that it is a half-truth, we have to resort to long and arid dissertations.

It’s easy to pen a comment that says, Hi Doc, what are your thoughts on this article? and attach a link.  I have to read the article, pull the actual study, read it, think about it, then write an answer that is considerably longer than the original comment.  What takes a commenter 20 seconds to write ends up costing me an hour or two to come up with an intelligent answer or even an ‘arid dissertation.’

I’m also getting a lot of comments asking for my ideas and recommendations on personal health issues.  People send me lab results and want to know what I think.  Without treating a given individual as a patient, medico-legal restrictions prevent me from answering these kinds of questions.

I never read the comments on blogs that I read, so I must assume that many people don’t read the comments on this blog.  But I end up spending way more time dealing with the comments than I do writing posts.  If I didn’t have to deal with the comments, I would write more posts.

I noticed that Mark Sisson, whom MD and I had lunch with yesterday, has started making posts out of some of his comments in a Dear Readers section of his blog.  He takes several comments that he thinks may be of interest to all his readers, posts them, and throws them out for the combined wisdom of all his readers to deal with. I may start doing this myself and weighing in along with the readers.  If anyone out there has any advice for me on this issue, I’m all ears.

Soda tax in New York

I just read this article this morning.  Was going to make a mini post out of it, but thought it would be better here.

A New York state senator (I’ll leave it to you guess from which party) says that by adding a measly one cent tax to each can of non-diet soda sold, the state of New York can add $100 million per year to its coffers.  If this is true, it means that citizens of and visitors to the state consume 10 billion cans of non-diet soda annually!  The population of New York state is a little over 19 million.  Dividing 10 billion by 19 million calculates out to about 525 cans of non-diet soda per man, woman and child in the state.  That’s almost 90 six-packs per person per year.  Wow!  There have got to be some low-carbers who live there who drink zero six-packs per year, which means that some other poor slob is drinking 180 six-packs per year.  That’s a lot of high-fructose corn syrup.

To my way of thinking, this is an onerous tax.  It moves $100 million from the pockets of the citizenry and puts it in the coffers of the bureaucrats to spend.  And, despite the fact that it sucks off 100 million bucks, the tax isn’t high enough to discourage consumption, so it really has no societal advantage except for transferring funds from the citizens to the government.

Where does your beef come from?

I don’t mean what part of the country.  I mean what part of the cow.  Here is a great site created by the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida showing way more than I (and probably you) need or want to know about beef anatomy.  But if you really do wonder where a flank steak or some other piece of beef comes from on the cow, click here to find out.  A lot of work went into this site.

Gradient gel electrophoresis

For those who hate to pay big bucks to have a lab tell you how much small, dense LDL you have, here’s how you can do it yourself.  That’s right.  With a drinking straw and a few other simple ingredients, you can make your own electrophoresis equipment and test your blood anytime you want for minimal expense.  Warning.  This is a real geek site.  I doubt that many will want to put together their own equipment, but at least it shows what’s involved in making a primitive version and how complex the testing process is.  May make you not feel so bad dropping the money to get the test done professionally.

Feel better immediately

And, finally, here is your feel-good YouTube of the day.  Watch this huge prank (if that’s what you would call it) played on the people in the train station at Antwerp one morning.  Really delightful.  Watch the faces of those watching.

Remember, don’t forget to help me out on this comment issue.  All suggestions will be appreciated.

Jesusita fire update

tahoe-morning

It looks as though the fire has pretty much been contained.  After several days of high winds, low humidity and brutal temperatures (up to 100° F), Santa Barbara late spring weather has reasserted itself.  We woke up yesterday (after a fairly sleepless night, what with a big red glow looming over the horizon) to cool, foggy weather.  The flames we could see leaping up the night before from the canyon above us, were completely obscured by the fog.

As one of the fire officials said in a welcome respite from ‘incidentese’, “Now we can chase the fire instead of having the fire chase us.”  Which looks like what has happened.  They have chased it and beaten it down. Most people are back into their homes, including those evacuees who were bunking in with us and got the word they could go back home at 10 AM today. We and our house escaped unscathed.  Not even a cinder or ash so far.

As I was transferring my fire photos from my camera to iPhoto, I realized I hadn’t transferred the photos I took a couple of weeks ago when we were in Tahoe.  It was nice to see some peaceful pictures without fire and smoke in them.  The one above is the view from my office window looking across the lake toward Squaw Valley just a little after daybreak.  That’s the time I love to get up, grab a hot cup of Americano, and start into my reading before the phone starts ringing.  If MD didn’t have a big concert coming up in a couple of weeks, that’s where we would be now.  And would stay at least until all this fire cleanup is finished.  It would be nice to be able to sleep without one eye on the skyline and an ear open listening for the wind.

MD and I thank you all for your good thoughts, prayers and well wishes during these frightening times.  I hope we don’t have to go through anything like this for a good long time – if ever.  Twice in six months is a little much.

A Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!  MD was treated to brunch today by a couple of our kids and our granddaughter.  I went along to provide the color commentary.

Jesusita fire in Santa Barbara

sb-fire-8

Since a bunch of readers have asked, I’ll give a quick update about the fire in Santa Barbara.  I took the photo above when MD and I went out to dinner last night in downtown Santa Barbara.  The top of our car, which is parked next to the restaurant, is in the foreground, providing some perspective.

As it stands now, MD and I are a little ways from the evacuation area, but the margin is getting closer and closer.  Fires move pretty fast when they are driven by winds gusting from 60-70 mph.  I’ve driven around and looked at the fire and placed it on a map and compared it to where we are.  When I do this and think about it, the reasoning, cognitive part of my brain tells me that we are in no danger at this point, but the primitive, reptilian part of my brain screams a different message.

If you click this link you can see a Google map of Santa Barbara that will update every 15 minutes.  You can see the areas that are under voluntary and mandatory evacuations.  And you can see how far this fire has spread in just four days, which is what the primitive part of my brain is focusing on. You’ll have to scroll to the right to see the part of the fire that affects us.  Our house is north of E. Valley Rd and above the Birnam Wood Golf Course.  If you see the edge of this evacuation hit Birnam Wood, you’ll know we’re out of here.

The most annoying thing about this fire – aside, of course, from the potential of being burned to death and/or having your house burn to the ground – is the lack of information available from the press and the authorities.  I watched a press conference this morning and almost ran screaming from the room.  Instead of one person who knew what was going on transmitting information, the press conference was a parade of ‘authorities’ and politicians jockeying for TV time and thanking one another for all the support.  The politicians thanked the fire fighters, the fire fighters thanked the politicians, and both thanked those involved in law enforcement.  Absolutely no information of value was transmitted.

Which brings me to another almost unbearably annoying part of these press conferences.  Along with profusely thanking one another for all the help, everyone defaults to what I call ‘authority’ talk.  There are no policemen or sheriffs, only ‘law enforcement personnel.’ No firefighters, but ‘fire control personnel.’ There is no wind, but ‘wind events’ instead.  We have fixed-wing aircraft and rotary wing aircraft circling overhead instead of airplanes and helicopters.  A DC-10 tanker is on the scene dropping tons of fire retardant.  It’s called the ‘largest dropping resource’ we have.  The fire itself is referred to as the ‘fire incident.’ ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I’ll keep everyone posted on what goes on via Twitter.  If you don’t want to sign up, you can simply go to the Follow Me On Twitter button (with the little blue bird) in the upper right of this blog and find all the updates.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

What follows is a series of photos showing the fire in different stages.

Below is a photo I took from the tee box on the 17th hole two days ago.

sb-fire-4

Here is the view from the same spot about 18 hours later.  I was playing with our son, and hit our drives off the tee.

sb-fire-5

By the time we got to our balls, a hot spot had erupted.  You can see how much change can take place in less than five minutes.

sb-fire-6

Here is the view taken about an hour ago from behind an info kiosk located about a half mile from our house.

sb-fire-7

A view of the fire at dusk last night.

sb-fire-9

I’ve succumbed to Twitter

futureman-and-twitter-blog

When I first learned of Twitter, I thought it was the most idiotic thing I had ever heard of.  My thinking was similar to that of the suits in the photo above.  Who gives a flying flip about the fact that I’m at the gas station or grocery store, or, God forbid, that I’m headed to the golf course?

But after reading about it a little more, I realized the potential.  Not for having all my friends know where I am or what I’m doing every second of the day, but for the transmission of information about other things.  I read a lot, and I’m constantly coming across articles of interest.  My first thought is almost always, I should blog about that.  Then I realize that the piece really isn’t worthy of an entire long blog post.

When we first started the website, I figured I could get the info out by putting it in the News Headlines section of the front page, but I soon realized that almost no one was reading the news headlines I put up.  How did I figure this out?  By putting up a news headline about, say, a new study that came out, then having 15 commenters ask me if I had heard of this same new study.

The other problem I have with the news headlines (other than that no one reads them) is that I can’t comment on them.  If I put up a poorly done study showing that high-carb diets make us all healthy, for example, the few people who read the news headlines might think I thought it was a valid study when in reality is was a POS.

So, Twitter to the rescue.  I can post on the almost blogworthy articles and do it with a little (very little) commentary.  Plus I can, if necessary, inform readers if I happen to be stuck somewhere traveling with no wi fi available while comments stack up.  I can use my iPhone (more about which later) to do that.  And maybe, just maybe, if I am out and having an extraordinary low-carb breakfast, I may find myself taking a picture of it and posting to Twitter.  But don’t count on a lot of that.  If I get another hole-in-one, you can be sure that I’ll be burning Twitter up with photos.

Speaking of my new iPhone, I’ve taken yet another step into the world of higher technology, but my foray hasn’t been without a few missteps.  I got the iPhone for a number of reasons, but one of the chief ones was so I could monitor this blog and deal with comments while away from my computer.  I tried doing it the first few times with disastrous consequences.

I tried going through the comments and approving them, but in the process of trying to enlarge them (which one does by spreading one’s fingers while touching the touch screen) so I could read them without my reading glasses, I managed to delete several at a time the first few times I did this.  So, if you sent in a comment and it vanished (I know people get some kind of message when their comments are awaiting moderation, but I don’t know what message they get – if any – if their comment is deleted), that may be what happened.  One comment in particular that I deleted has been causing me heartburn.  A cardiologist wrote in questioning my take on statins and referring to an old simvastatin study to bolster his argument, and I inadvertently deleted the comment with my fumble fingers .  If you read this, Doc, please resubmit. I don’t want you to think I was avoiding your question.

You can follow my musings on Twitter in a couple of ways.  There is a little blue bird and the words ‘follow me on Twitter’ in the upper right part of the blog beneath the ‘about me’ and above the big sort of orange RSS feed subscription button.  You can click there, and you will be taken to all my updates.  Once there, you can also sign up to be notified whenever there is a new update.  I imagine that most people reading this will know vastly more about this process than I, but for those who don’t, there it is.

So, have fun with it.  But be forewared, I probably won’t be able to keep from indulging myself in a political update or two here and there.  The field is simply too rich to be ignored right now.  Please bear in mine that I come to politics from a libertarian perspective, and that I pretty much loathe all politicians of all stripes.

Oh, and I haven’t yet succumbed to Facebook, but as the fact that I’m now on Twitter attests, I’ll never say never.