Interesting Times Indeed

Being a doc and a dork too, I've been studying on COVID-19 since it first appeared.  Still the magnitude of the crisis is shocking.  This will be a life-changing event and it may last for years.  I expect to loose both of my parents.  I would not be shocked if I also were to die, but then I have been expecting to die since early in life.  What surprises me is that I am still here, to see all of this.  I never thought I would see the American experiment fail.  I did not anticipate being alive for a pandemic.  I didn't know that I'd live to see another Great or Greater Depression.  But here I am, still breathing, still enjoying the sun streaming through the window and the softness of Kitten's fur, drinking hot tea, with access to internet and hot water coming out of pipes.  I am waiting to see what is next.  I am lucky and I know it.

Being an intravert, it is not yet a hardship to stay home.  In fact, I am more connected with my family and friends because I have been making daily telephone calls.  I generally avoid the telephone, preferring one-on-one in-person conversations.  But now, the telephone is what I have.  And the internet.  I have been spending a lot of time on fecebuk.  I discover more interesting articles there than I do from my own independent web wanderings.  My friends are a thoughtful and intelligent bunch.

I recently read a book called Perennial Seller, about how to create and market a lasting work of art.  I am a writer and a philosopher, and I have several books in the works...and I am thinking that this long period of lockdown will be a good opportunity to write.  If I can persuade my dear partner to stop interrupting me with his stream of consciousness verbal leakage, I have a chance.  My next hurdle is deciding which book to focus on.  I shift back and forth among all my writing projects as a new idea or bit of information provokes me.  This shifting--and the splitting of one chapter into two, one book into two, does not facilitate finishing anything.

Of course, because my job is at a clinic, filling doctor's orders for herbs and supplements, the business may remain open.  I may be one of those who still has a job for a while yet at least.  This is both a blessing (paycheck) and a curse (exposure).


QotD: We are the Change

"If you look throughout history, all the great changes have come from the people. We are being betrayed by those in power and they are failing us. But we will not back down...And if you feel threatened by that, I have some very bad news for you. We will not be silenced. Because we are the change. And change is coming. Whether you like it or not."
--Greta Thunberg at youth strike for climate February 2020, Bristol UK

QotD: Viewpoint Diversity

 ..."viewpoint diversity is necessary for the development of critical thinking, while viewpoint homogeneity (whether on the left or the right) leaves a community vulnerable to groupthink and orthodoxy."
--Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in Coddling of the American Mind; How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, p113.

Whitewater Readiness Quiz


This quiz is designed to help whitewater paddlers assess what class of whitewater you have the skills to run with success.  For each question, pick the answer that is most true for you now, not historically.  Rigorous and honest self assessment is difficult, but it may be your most important skill for longterm enjoyment in a risky sport.  If you are not honest with yourself, this tool is of no use.  Our abilities shift throughout life so keep checking in about what you can do, adjust your paddling choices accordingly.  You do not have to tell anyone else about your process. 

To take the quiz: Jot down a single number answer to each question, making a list that looks something like this: 1, 3, 2, 2, etc.  You should have a list with 11 numbers by the end.

  1. Rolling
    1. I roll most/all of the time in the pool but tend to bail in combat situations.
    2. When I flip on the river I immediately get into a tightly tucked set-up position and try a roll or a T-rescue.
    3. My roll is 90% or more successful on the river.
    4. I roll on both sides, have a hand roll, and can usually do one of those in a pinch.
  2. Ferrying
    1. I can get across mild currents efficiently.
    2. I’m confident doing a strong ferry across moderate current with turbulence.
    3. I can jet ferry across intense current and hit the other side where I want.
    4. I am comfortable using waves and holes to cross a rapid upstream from dangerous obstacles.
  3. Catching Eddies
    1. I catch the biggest eddy at the bottom of the rapid.
    2. I enjoy catching medium sized eddies in the middle of rapids.
    3. I like to sew up rapids by hopping from eddy to eddy all the way down.
    4. I am happy catching tiny eddies in weird places for strategic positioning or to get a view of what’s downstream.
  4. Reading Water
    1. I need someone to follow because I'm not good at picking lines.
    2. I usually follow through new rapids and feel OK leading through familiar rapids.
    3. I can find my way down a new class II.
    4. I pick my own routes in unfamiliar class III rapids without scouting or following.
  5. Playing
    1. I don't play because I don't want to flip over.
    2. I play at the best spots when I am in my playboat.
    3. I bow surf on waves when they have eddy service.
    4. I catch waves on the fly and drop into holes sideways for fun.
  6. Rescue
    1. I hate swimming rapids and often need help getting my gear rounded up.
    2. I am good at self rescue and often get my kit to shore before anybody shows up to help.
    3. I always carry a throwbag and deploy it without hesitation.
    4. I can extricate boats and people from pins in the river most of the time.
  7. Strength
    1. I need help loading my boat on the car.
    2. I can lift my own boat overhead and set it on a vehicle.
    3. I do shoulder and core exercises regularly because they improve my paddling.
    4. I can carry my boat 0.7 miles and then paddle and portage for 4 hours.
  8. VIII.Cardiovascular Fitness
    1. My most vigorous workout is walking.
    2. I run, bike or do cardio at the gym at least twice a week.
    3. I do aerobic paddling workouts like sprints, slalom, or continuous/high water whitewater runs at least twice a week.
    4. I can carry my boat four miles uphill then paddle big rapids without problems.
  9. Toughness
    1. I get emotional or angry when things don’t go well on the river.
    2. I am anxious sometimes on the water but manage my fear without requiring reassurance from others.
    3. I can take a bad swim or a beating on rocks/in a hole and still have a good day.
    4. I am cool as a cucumber and can function in life and death situations.
  10. Flows
    1. I let other people decide when the flows are right for a run.
    2. I know what CFS stands for.
    3. I pay attention to gauge readings for each run I do (maybe even log them) and study the runoff/release patterns.
    4. I carefully investigate flow recommendations and patterns for new runs and enjoy high and low water.
  11. Crew
    1. I participate in pick-up trips with people I find via the internet or clubs.
    2. The folks I usually paddle with are mostly weaker paddlers than me.
    3. I’ve had the good luck to fall in with a crew that’s stronger paddlers than me.
    4. I paddle regularly with a few friends who are strong paddlers and whose habits and idiosyncrasies are well understood.

Don't cheat yourself!  Write down your answers to all 11 questions THEN follow this link.




Boiron Attempts Hypnosis to Save Homeopathy Market

On Monday October 14 I attended what was advertised as a movie about homeopathy.  It was listed in the email that goes out to all staff, faculty and students at NUNM, the National University of Natural Medicine.  I was one of two staff present, the other one being there because she was required to for her job.

I attended this event because I am writing a book about homeopathy, or rather about the culture and psychology that surrounds it.  I am not a believer.  The people who at the event made the assumption that I was, and I made no effort to dissuade them.  I presume that NUNM hosts these events because Boiron donates money, but I could be wrong.

The man who greeted me at the event was the same man I had called to RSVP.  He was nice enough but he had terrible breath and I had to steel myself not to take several steps back whenever he spoke.  He also had a huge pot belly.  When I walked in the door he was telling his own conversion story, about how 30 years ago he'd been sick and had exhausted all the options given by conventional medicine.  Then he'd tried homeopathy and gotten better, and he had never looked back.  It is this kind of uncritical conversion story that gets repeated ad nauseum by homeopathy believers.  I believe they need to repeat it, to hear themselves repeating it, to maintain their belief.  His breath turned my stomach and his story gave me no reason to respect his critical thinking prowess, so I escaped as quickly as possible, but not before I learned that he is a rep for Boiron, one of apparently just two for the entire west coast.  The other rep was also present and made no better representation of the health that can be attained by way of homeopathy.  She engaged me in conversation for a little while, marketing her ND practice in PDX and eating M&M's one by one.  If this is the best Boiron can do for reps they are definitely going down.

They were giving away free pizza and the host had asked me on the telephone what my favorite kind of pizza was.  I answered jalapeno and anchovy, but when I got there my favorite was not.  Apparently the restaurant did not have anchovies and only jar jalapenos though fresh are easily available.  All but one of the huge stack of pizzas were gluten free, however.  I suppose they think that all naturopaths avoid gluten.

The talk that came before the movie was supposed to be a summary of the regulatory status of homeopathy in the US, but really it was an advertisement for Boiron.  The focus was on Boiron's efforts to influence the FDA's position, on a great personal connection that Boiron has in the FDA, and on how the FDA regs don't really stop the sale of homeopathy.  I was somewhat irritable because being in the supplement business I know a little bit about how the FDA has impacted OUR sales of homeopathics, and the Boiron rep was clearly ignorant of that situation.  We've discontinued all sales of LM's (compounded liquid homeopathics),  remedies made from DEA-regulated drugs (opium, etc), and nosodes (remedies made from diseased material, like medorrhinum).  These changes have been in response to shifts in the FDA's stance. 

There was also angry mention of the Australian analysis of everything known about homeopathy which resulted in them dropping it from their publicly funded healthcare program.  They decided it was not effective for treating any conditionFrance and other countries have dropped homeopathy from public funding due to lack of evidence, but the speaker at this event insisted that the Australian assessment was biased and wrong and would be reversed.  Yeah, right.

I learned little from this presentation but I did eat some pizza.  It was OK.

More interesting than the update about regulation was the bit that they said about the "grant" that Boiron had provided to the CEDH (Center for Education and Development of Clinical Homeopathy) to start a "Clinical Homeopathy" program, with the subtitle "Integrate Homeopathy Into Your Daily Practice".  It isn't really a grant, it is an expenditure on a marketing effort intended to brainwash more people into believing.  The CEDH exists to separate the name Boiron from the "educational" program. 

In the first "module" of the 4-part educational program they have 22 students enrolled, most of whom are NUNM students.  This makes sense as a lot of people enter naturopathic school already sure about homeopathy and intending to use it.  It also makes sense because shifts in the ND curriculum have removed all five of the homeopathy classes that I was required to take, and instruction in homeopathy is supposed to be blended in with the subject matter in "blocks" that address organ systems one at a time.  According to the students the majority of professors are not teaching much, if any homeopathy, and yet homeopathy is still on the ND clinical board exams.  The students are panicked about the exams and seeking training in homeopathy outside of the NUNM ND curriculum.  Boiron and the CEDH are taking advantage of this situation to secure their future market.

After the talking they finally started the movie, a good hour after the email had said it would begin.  Entitled Magic Pills, the movie is another brainwashing effort along the lines of Just One Drop.  This one attempts to directly address all the complaints that skeptics have about homeopathy, talking about confirmation bias as a reason that scientists won't even consider homeopathy, and repeating the usual homeopathy hypnotic anchor of "it works" (kind of like "build a wall" for Trump).  They also expressed quite a bit of anger at moles such as myself who do not believe but show up to their events and practices wanting to gain information to undermine their efforts.

From my perspective Magic Pills was a weaker piece of brainwashing than Just One Drop but the believers in the scant audience were nodding along.  The use of the title was an effort to take one of the phrases used by skeptics and turn it into a hypnotic anchor for the believers.  I was keeping a tally of all the mentions of "it works", all the testimonials by lay people, medical professionals and PhD's, and all the conversion stories.  These are the standard approaches of homeopaths in getting people to believe.  In the future it might be worth tracking "magic pills" references.  Skeptics should be aware that believers may have been brainwashed to specifically resist the terms that they are using.  Repetition is one of the essential tools of hypnosis/brainwashing.  I had to leave before the end which could be have been more powerful than the anti-skeptic lead-in, but I confess I did not regret leaving.  I had to take a shower when I got home.


George Packer speaks at Literary Arts Opening

On Tuesday this week I attended the opening lecture of a lecture series hosted by the nonprofit organization Portland Literary Arts.  I had little idea what to expect.  The speaker was someone I hadn't heard of, or at least didn't remember, but I will remember him now.  The name is George Packer.  He was a staff writer for the New Yorker for a long time, and now is on staff writing for The Atlantic.  He also has written some books and essays, largely about culture and politics.

I was impressed.  He was there to promote his latest book, Our Man, which is about the controversial diplomate Richard Holbrook and the old America that he symbolizes.  The new America is something different.  Packer understands the changes in our culture better than most and I fully intend to seek out his writing in the future.  I have probably read him in the past but the name did not stick in my head.

Our Man is written in an unusual style for a biography.  Rather than being overfull of dates and details, it is told in narrative style by a fictional narrator who is older than the author.  The narrator was "there" for the whole story, and tells it in a style that the author repeated calls "a yarn".  I'm sure it will be a good read, and I will read it as soon as the demand for it at the library goes down a bit.

The book that he wrote in 2013 is called The Unwinding and it is about the cultural shifts that led to the election of Trump--except that at the time nobody knew it would lead there.  It is on my reading list.  The NY Times says it explains why Trump was elected.  For many of us that bears some thought.

When Packer first took the stage he looked up at the audience in the Schnitzer auditorium and he said that Portland is not the biggest city, but it was the biggest crowd.  The auditorium is huge and a beauty.  It holds 2,500 people, and it was full.  After his talk he took out his phone and photographed the crowd from his view on the stage.

Portland, Oregon is an interesting place, full of many highly educated individuals who dearly want to save the world.  They share Packer's sadness and fear about the changes that have come to our country and our politics in the last 20 years.  The patterns of applause during the Q&A period at the end reveal the overall agreement of this crowd with Packer's assessment of what is happening because of Trump.  His answer to the question about Syria (after the Trump-licensed Turkish bombing of the Kurds) made the situation more clear to me than months of reading in the Times.

Packer recommended three books to read (not his own) at the end of the talk.  I put them all on my library list but the one that really excites me is more current.  It is called Intellectuals and Race, by Thomas Sowell.  Amazon says it is an inclusive critique of the intellectual's destructive role in shaping ideas about race in America.  Other sources talk about how much ruckus this book has raised.  Intellectuals don't like to be criticised but in this day and age, they need to respond to criticism rather than dismissing it.

I would say that the ivory tower has made some missteps in shaping ideas about sexuality and gender, too.  I have been subject to some pretty strong progressive brainwashing in this town and witnessed it being misused to shame and alienate.  We would do well to pay attention to George Packer and other thoughtful people in the future as we try to find a way out of the stalemate we are in culturally and politically.  Our democracy is on its way toward failure and if we care about this experiment enough to continue it, we need to find a way that we can talk across the rather deep divisions.


Proud Boys in PDX

I didn't mean to have anything to do with the protests in PDX yesterday but by accident I visited the fringe.  I worked until 1pm and then I went into SE PDX for an appointment.  My appointment was on Morrison, just a block east of the bridge.  When I parked at 1:15pm, the first oddity I saw was two large trucks loaded to the gills with PDX cops dressed out in riot gear.  The trucks are set up such that the police can stand around the edges of the back and hang on, and when the truck stops they all step off.  They had helmets with face guards and a large assortment of weapons.  There appeared to be a medic on each truck.

There was a helicopter hovering overhead, and another helicopter roaming.  Soon two more truckloads of police came by my parking spot.  I got out of my vehicle and walked around.  There were drunken white tourists coming out of a bar.  They climbed onto one of those big bicycle carts and rowdied off down the street.  Then a crowd of black and camo-clad men sauntered by, wearing masks and armor and carrying medieval looking weapons.  There was at least one woman with them.  They were scary, intentionally so.  I think they were anti-fa.  They appeared to simply be making their presence known.  Two truckloads of riot police unloaded from their trucks and stood on the street corner.  Another two truckloads of riot police came through behind the anti-fa after they left.  I read this morning that Rump is talking about treating the anti-fa as another terrorist org.  I don't think so.  Their goal is not violence.  Their goal is to be there and intervene in bigoted violence when the cops aren't around.  I am grateful, frankly, that there are local citizens willing to step in and stop white supremacists from hurting/killing for their "cause".  I'm not about to risk my own neck.

I walked around the area for a while because I was early to my appointment.  I saw three very clean black suburbans slowly creeping through the blocks.  I presume those were the feds behind bulletproof glass.  Large ford trucks were arriving and parking in the area, and from each truck spilled four white men.  They were mostly wearing polo shirts and blue jeans, and were mostly young to middle-aged and in good shape.  They looked like they were ready for a brawl.  Itching for a fight, maybe.  I presume those were the so-called Proud Boys in spite of the fact that none were wearing black polos with yellow trim which is their uniform.  That group is required to physically fight for their "western chauvinism" cause in order to reach the top level of membership.  They are racist and misogynist and I was glad our local anti-fa and the cops were there ready to suppress their efforts to beat up gay and brown people.

I am proud of Portland with its bubble of relative safety for LGBT and brown people.  Oregon doesn't have the finest of history in this regard, but at least now there are a lot of people willing to stick their necks out to stop hate.

Below are some of the links I visited on Saturday morning when trying to understand what is going on.  I think McInnes and his crew will continue to come here because they get attention, and that is what they want.  Attention and a fight.  The PDX goal was to stop the fighting.  After the protests the word was that they plan to return every month.  It will be expensive for the city to continue to provide the kind of police presence that I saw.

I find it interesting that they call themselves boys.  Oh yeah?  Not men?  So desperate to belong that they'll revert to boyhood?  And proud of what, exactly?  Their white skin?  They had nothing to do with that, they were just born with it.  Their tatoos?  Their toughness?  Not very proud of their independence I guess.  Not too proud of their critical thinking or compassion.  They may be proud but we are not proud of them.

Wiki on Proud Boys
The Proud Boys say they have an initiation process that has four stages and includes hazing. The first stage is a loyalty oath, on the order of "I’m a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world"; the second is getting punched until the person recites pop culture trivia, such as the names of five breakfast cereals; the third is getting a tattoo and agreeing to not masturbate; and the fourth is getting into a major fight "for the cause." 

No one has applied for permits for today's protests
FBI will be there
Proud boys = "general hate" white supremacist, misogynist, antisemitic

Gavin McInnes
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