How homeopathy fails at science

After getting an opinion piece published online in the debate section of a major Norwegian newspaper (link, but in Norwegian), I’ve been having an interesting sort of dialog with the Twitter account of the Norwegian Association of Homeopaths (NHL). Now this is of course just one person, or at most a handful, but through the dialog and the links provided on their side of the discussion, I’ve made what I find are some interesting observations on the relationship the world of homeopathy has with science. It has ended up rather rambling, for which I apologise, but hey, it’s my personal blog, not the NEJM.

Let me first say that it’s entirely possible that any or all aspects of the practice of homeopathy are correct. “Like cures like” could actually be a near universal principle. Succussion could really be causing some sort of water memory. And the benefits perceived by homeopathic practitioners and satisfied patients could really be due to the treatment, and not due to a combination of various placebo effects and the stress-reducing effects of being listened to and taken seriously. Even in a strictly rational world view this is possible. It’s just not very likely. In fact, it barely registers on the “likely”-scale at all, so how do the homeopaths end up with such a strong conviction that it’s not only fact, but scientifically proven fact?

As I’ve written about before in this more narrow post, the father of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, had good excuses for being wrong. He would have known very little about how hard it is to do accurate medical research, and his results would have been better than the competition at the time because many treatments in those day were actively harmful. Modern day homeopaths have no such excuse, and to hold on to their beliefs they operate with a rather bizarre relationship with modern science.

If you try to look into the scientific backing of homeopathy, you’ll probably find lists such as Medical conditions with positive conclusions for homeopathy from the European Committee for Homeopathy with a bunch of references to research. This was the first link offered me in my discussion with the NHL. It’s a hodgepodge of references of varying significance and validity, and even though it supposedly only includes positive conclusions, one of the links is to a Cochrane review on Oscillococcinum as a remedy against influenza which a) concludes that he evidence is insufficient to draw a conclusion, and b) is from 2006 and was updated in 20092012 and 2015. Neither review really changes the conclusion, so it’s baffling that this list hasn’t been updated or that NHL would use the 2006 reference in work done in 2013 as they do here (link in Norwegian). But it does show that to the homeopaths, not having been proven wrong is as good as having been proven right.

Now I’m not going to discuss how systematic reviews done by homeopaths and the medical science community differs, except to mention that the former consider the body of research proof of the efficacy of homeopathy and that medical science have the opposite conclusion. When questioned by my twitter opponent what my qualifications were for criticising homeopathy, I referenced the British NHS as an example of expertise I trusted who’ve recently rejected homeopathy.

Instead of discussing the quality of such reviews, which are frankly beyond my level of expertise, my focus will instead be on how homeopathy appears to only be interested in science to confirm already existing assumptions, and lacks the system or inclination to take the consequences of negative results. Normal medical research regularly leads to both new and established practices being discarded as inefficient or harmful, while finding an example of this happening in homeopathy seems rather difficult. So I asked the NHL-twitter jockey, I asked the teeming millions on the Straight Dope message boards (Are there any homeopathic remedies that have been discontinued due to negative research results?) and I did some searching myself. Results: silch. So basically homeopathy appears immune to negative research results, admittedly based on a rather limited search. Or it could be that homeopathy is actually flawless and all negative and null results are invalid, but that seems rather unlikely in the face of so much research.

When confronted with this question my NHL opponent moved to a favoured argument of homeopaths. Homeopathy is individualized. Every treatment is different, based on how the patient responds, and testing that double blind is just impossible. Thus there doesn’t exist negative results that are relevant to changing practice. Never mind that they’re touting lots of studies without individualization as evidence, setting up a double blind test of individualized homeopathy is actually rather simple. I offered up this study on asthma as an example, but apparently conventional asthma medicines perfectly nulls out homeopathy in addition to actually working. And when I found a paper where that wasn’t an issue, a trial where patients with generalized anxiety disorder improved greatly and equally whether in the placebo group or receiving homepathic “drugs”, the response was that then they really should try homeopathy before SSRIs. In and of itself damning evidence of at least one homeopath’s understanding of science, but let’s keep going.

Curious as to whether this twitter account was really busy or I was the special guest of the week I checked its feed and immediately found an interesting reference. Touted as Homeopaths recognize homeopathic remedy in blinded proving my opponent had linked to this Protocol for a phase 1 homeopathic drug proving trial. Protocols being evidence of nothing I followed the one link to an actual trial citing the protocol. The result of that trial: no difference between homeopathic remedy and placebo. My opponent’s response was to dig into a single detail that could be interpreted as positive for homeopathy, totally ignoring that the results conclusively falsified the hypothesis or that the trial only had 29 participants. In their view the results were “interesting”.

Now in case you didn’t know it, homeopathic practice is built on a system of research that’s supremely vulnerable to all the pitfalls of bias that modern research protocols are designed to counter. Preliminary tests of a new remedy is called a proving, and the aforementioned trial was an adaptation of this to a more stringent double blind approach. And the intention of promoting the link in the first place had been to put forth the citations in the protocol suggestion, not the protocol itself or the resulting research. Which is no surprise as the research following the protocol were damning to homeopathy while the results inspiring it were spectacular.

In fact they were the kind of results that would convince me homeopathy was real, if they were independently verified and follow-up research hadn’t given null-results. As reported in Homeopathic Pathogenetic Trials Produce Specific Symptoms Different from Placebo:

  • 8 participants on homeopathic remedy A showed an average of 6 (+/-2) symptoms specific to A, and 0 (+/- 2) specific to B or non-specific.
  • 10 participants on B had a similar 5 (+/-2) symptoms specific to B, and 0 others
  • 7 participants on placebo had 11 non-specific and zero belonging to A or B.

Ignoring the horror of including the negative side of the y-axis on a graph of the number of symptoms one can only see these results as amazing. (Can you really have an average of 0 +/- 2 symptoms? That seems like statistics malfeasance to me.) It’s a small trial, but if one judges from it alone, homeopathic remedies are not only perfectly aligned with those old not-so-rigid provings, they are also perfect protection against the nocebo effect. All you’d have to do to upturn physics as we know it would have been to replicate the findings. Which hasn’t been done, or at least not successfully. Which doesn’t matter to homeopaths. Which is proof positive that they are scientifically illiterate.

If one takes the homeopathic approach to science, homeopathy seems well founded. There’s is positive research out there, and research that is inconclusive, and, according to homepaths, very few negative results. But homeopathy and homeopathic research as a whole appears unable to take the inconclusive and negative results to hearth and see how damning they are to a practice that claims spectacular results in actual use. And when one looks into the cites and details of their reviews … Yes, there are some positive results included, often low quality studies, and if you bother you can easily find someone (The Research Evidence base for Homeopathy) claiming as “broadly positive” a review that concludes thusly:

There is some evidence that homeopathic treatments are more effective than placebo; however, the strength of this evidence is low because of the low methodological quality of the trials. Studies of high methodological quality were more likely to be negative than the lower quality studies. Further high quality studies are needed to confirm these results.

(My emphasis.)

When discussing the evidence for homeopathy one can debate the weight given to different types of evidence and what research is selected to be included in reviews, and unless one is personally qualified to assess such things homeopathy can seem to have as much claim to have proven itself as the medical community has to the claim that they’ve disproven it. And so homeopathy does claim that the evidence is just as strong for homeopathy as for conventional medicine, or would be, if they had as much money for research as conventional medicince, as they do in this attempted rebuttal of the strawman “There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy works” (same link as the first link in the previous paragraph). But even if one accepted that claim, and after looking at the selection criteria I certainly don’t, there is one major difference homeopathy can’t escape. In actual medical science inconclusive and negative results lead to further research or to changes in practice, in theories, and in research avenues, and positive results are replicated, whereas in the bizarro homeopathy version results are only taken into account when they confirm the deeply flawed provings of the last 200+ years and otherwise mostly ignored.

This is my house.


This is the best blog entry ever. Even if The Bloggess, amazing though she be, is not your cup of strange taxidermy, you should read this entry. It is, without hyperbole the most important message you will read in your lifetime of “most important message you will read today/this week/this month/this year”s. It’s long, it’s rambling, but there’s not a word wasted. Okay, some of them are only there for the laughs and giggles, but important should be sprinkled with laughs and giggles more often.

Now go read it, I’m serious. Read it!

Originally posted on The Bloggess:

The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger…that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.

This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer…

View original 2,646 more words

Gender-neutral personal pronouns: Let’s use he!

I’m a rich, white, cis- male in a homogenous affluent community in one of the easiest countries to live in in the world. I’m not a linguist, just an opinionated exaggerateur, in case the blog’s title and tagline doesn’t make that sufficiently clear. I am however 100% correct in calling my idea the perfect solution to the issue of gendered pronouns, not just in English, but in any language with gendered pronouns. It’s time to abandon the singular they and zhe, xe or whatever your preferred alternative is. Let’s instead just ungender he and she.

Gendered pronouns are problematic. Historical and current reactionary use mirrors old fashioned assumptions about the sex and gender of actors, with generic references to doctors, engineers or dock workers always using he, nurses and secretaries always being she, and roles with no stereotypical gender defaulting to male. Not the worst feature of a sexist society, but an obvious one, with subtle influence on our perception of the world, as well as being a symptom of the perception of the writer.

Less obvious to many is that their use, not just the overuse of he, cements the importance of the binary gender world view, which, although a natural result of the dominance of binary sex, leads to an exaggerated, harmful and unnecessary polarisation of the “feminine” and “masculine” in our various cultures. (If criticism of the binary gender “paradigm” seems silly to you, I recommend this video: On Gender.)

And in addition to these problems with bias in gendered pronoun choice in generic references (An engineer should be aware of her biases) there’s the problem of their use for specific references (Alex forgot his/her boots). Partly this is the same issue as the one described in the previous paragraph, and partially this is about individuals not wanting to be referred to by the wrong gender or by gender at all.

Use of gender-neutral pronouns are often promoted to solve some of these problems, but not all. Several failed drafts of this paragraph have showed me that this limitation is almost entirely due to people having a more limited goal in mind though. Expand the use of any suggested gender-neutral personal pronoun to replace he and she entirely and you’ve solved all of the problems, but you’ve also increased the resistance against acceptance significantly and you’ve made a system with complete lack of backwards compatibility. There is only one solution to this: Ungender the current pronouns.

Hillary Clinton announced his running mate for the 2016 presidential election today. Cheng Bai is a virtual unknown, but Clinton believes she will be a valuable asset in his run for the presidency.

Sure it will seem clunky for a while, but many languages manage without gendered pronouns and the benefits are many.

  1. No new words need to be introduced. The fact that it’s a completely new word is a significant barrier to gender neutral pronouns such as zhe.
  2. Suggested system works for all languages with gendered pronouns.
  3. Old or reactionary writings are 100% compatible with the system, even if the use of a strict 1:1 relationship between biological sex and linguistic gender will seem a bit quaint in 100 years time, when everyone does it the new way.
  4. In a transition period you can reverse the traditional use completely and overuse she to your heart’s content, which will also seem quaint to people 100 years from now, but will make your intentions obvious and help acclimatise your readers to the concept.
  5. The pronouns can always be different in a two person scenario, regardless of the genders involved. Not the most important feature in the world, but it makes he and she more useful than they are today.
  6. No need to figure out the actual or preferred gender of a person you write about. Now this might be a barrier if it’s important for you to take that person’s preferences into account, an admirable priority, but I think you should weigh that against how many reactionary malety males you could annoy by randomly referring to half of them as she. And for those of you with a preferred pronoun, won’t you please think of the children?!

Now read the fake quote about Hillary Clinton above. Once you’ve gotten over your brain’s insistence that referring to Hillary as “he” is wrong, what gender is Cheng Bai? And should it matter?

Weird dreams are made of this

Dreams are weird. There are lots of hypotheses on their purpose or lack of such, but they’re hard to test, and some are so seductive they stay in public consciousness despite being stupid. (Prophetic dreams anyone?) But it’s not just the act of dreaming that’s weird, the contents of dreams are weird as well, and they show first hand some of the mind’s power of rationalization.

Dreams come in various levels of weirdness, but if you try writing some of it down immediately after dreaming, you’ll find a lot more discontinuities than if you recall them the next day. Evidence of the mind’s powerful ability to edit your memories to make sense of them, a power that’s also in play during the dreaming, helped by the “what the fuck!”-part of your brain being dampened. Or maybe everyone else dreams clear and sensible narratives and I’m just generalizing based on the weird stuff I dream. Like the following dream I had last night.

So I have cold (that’s not a part of the dream, I’m just following up the theoretical lead in to the dream recital with a personal lead in) and feeling crappy and sorry for myself I fall asleep on the couch in the evening and I wake up around 10 pm with a dry mouth, a sore neck from the messed up position I’ve slept in, and the memory of the tail end of a dream where I’m trying to scrape some unpleasantly sticky food gunk off my gums. And so I head off to bed and fortunately I fall asleep easily, despite my long nap.

But I wake up at 3:33 from a weird dream.

I’m in some sort of game or Ninja academy or fantasy novel, and the dream has been going on for a while, but that’s how far back I remembered when I woke up. I’m looking at objects on a dark wood bookshelf. And as I realize an invading search party is spreading through the building I pick one of the hardwood stair finials lying on the shelf for a weapon. As one of the people enter the room I hide behind the door and smack him in the head with the finial as he enters.

It’s super inefficient, so I have to run. By running and jumping down stairs I escape past half a dozen people not trying all that hard to catch me. My escape is nearly thwarted though, when my co-conspirator locks the door behind her/him. I think with the motivation «If they catch him/her, that’ll be more time for me to get away», but the pursuit is so slow I escape anyway. Oh, and I’m sure at this point in the dream there’s two of us, and we’re Bart and Lisa Simpson. Although I’m not confident if I’m Lisa or Bart or an external observer.

Whoever is first reaches a fence and pulls the same «lock the gate behind me» stunt, and I curse as the other person with me twists the locking knob right off forcing us to climb the fence instead. Yeah, there’s three of us now, and I think the two others are my brothers, that’s definitely who they are in a later scene.

Climbing the fence is easy just up the embankment next to the gate where the fence is just waist high. And right past the fence we engage in some creative running in loops on an incline to gain speed and distance on our two pursuers, who’re women, but if I had an idea of who they were at the time, that memory is gone now.

We exit stage left (or stage right actually, if it were an actual stage) and approach the brook that ran past my childhood home, now following a path/road that my uncle has made with a harrow straight through his property and onto our neighbour’s. Right by the brook though my youngest brother, and the two women, fall into a sink hole that suddenly opens up in the path.

I tell my other brother to grab a branch or something and pull us out, because despite not having fallen into the hole I’m now in it. Our befuddled female pursuers are left in the hole and then edited out of the narrative completely as my brothers and I, following the harrow path, are now running away from home and I wonder if my instigating brother has really thought this through, and what mom and dad will think.

I’m not worrying about the fact that we’re all our adult selves or that my mom died several years ago or that what was all summery and green a couple scenes ago is now wintery all of a sudden. Or that the next couple of scenes are utterly bizarre.

We pass one neighbour’s fields and approach the cluster of houses belonging to the next farm over and walk past a greenhouse that definitely doesn’t exist out in the real world. As we pass it I’m thinking «so that’s the ‘textiles out of a greenhouse’ store I’ve been hearing about». And I think maybe we should see if there are some blankets in case we don’t figure out a place to spend the night. Only the guy who is outside moving stuff around seems to be packing up rather than opening the «store», even if one of my brothers thinks it’s the other way round.

I hate asking strangers for information but for a moment it seems my brother is going to, but then he doesn’t and I realize there are opening hours posted on the side of the greenhouse and I move around and further away from the building to see them properly, only I slide down a long hill in the snow. In hindsight this hill slants the opposite way of the terrain I’m certain we were just in, but there’s weirder to come so I won’t dwell on that. It’s a long hill and loose snow on slippery snow, and I cause a bit of an avalanche on the way down, but from the bottom it’s easy to read the numbers.

They don’t make sense at first but eventually I figure out what they say, possibly because the numbers changed, and I realize they close at 16 on Saturdays and it’s now just past. So I signal this to my brother using my hands, not wanting to shout or maybe it’s too far to shout, and start climbing back up the hill, which is now full of people and not even a hill for very long.

There are some conversations going on as I climb, about possible places to sleep suggested by the neighbour kids, who’re of course also grown up, but that’s not as interesting as how the snowy hill we’re climbing turns into the seatback of a hill-sized leather recliner without it registering as odd with anyone. As I, and a couple other climbers, reach the last, vertical, part of the leather seatback, our weight causes it to tilt forwards, which of course is backwards for us and lands us just at the edge of the giant glass table that goes with the chair. And that’s when I woke up. At 3:33. And wrote down as much detail as I remember.

Om Jaquesson var mann, og Seltzer var kvinne …

Drukner en del rasjonell vurdering av Trygdekontorpornodebatten i inntrykket enkelte har av feminister generelt og Kari Jaquesson spesielt? Her er et leserbrev fra en parallell dimensjon der kjønnsrollene for akkurat dette innslaget er reversert, men det meste annet er det samme. Vel, kanskje bortsett fra at den fornærmede er bedre til å skrive.

For noen uker siden viste NRK i sitt program utdrag fra en pornofilm laget spesielt for dem i anledning at temaet for sendingen skulle være porno. Dette avstedkom adskillig kritikk, men programleder Tanya Sprudelwasser valgte av en eller annen grunn, kanskje at jeg som mann er en ensom svale blant pornomotstandere, å respondere spesielt på mitt bidrag til det kommentariatet betegner som et ekstremfeministisk hylekor, ved å bestille nok en film, denne gangen inkludert en scene der en rollefigur som åpenbart er en karikatur av meg, oralt tilfredsstiller skuespillerinnen som representerer Sprudelwasser.

I følge programleder Sprudelwasser, prosjektleder Heyerdahl og underholdningsdirektør Condottieri, som i ulike former har respondert på kritikken, var dette ikke ment å krenke, men var “et satirisk skråblikk for å belyse en viktig debatt“. Siden man må anta at debatten i dette tilfellet er debatten om nivået for krenkelser, som var tema for programmet, er det vanskelig å se for seg at de ikke ser og så en mulig dimensjon av krenkelse i innslaget.

Videre har disse ansvarlige kun deltatt i den påfølgende debatten ved å kommentere de delene av kritikken de betegner som å ha mest potensiale til å opprøre noen og beskrive denne delen av kritikken som så absurd at den ikke ville ha opprørt dem selv om de hadde vært av typen til å la seg opprøre. Etter min mening en lite vellykket deltakelse. (Om ikke målet var å tilfredsstille det antifeministiske hylekoret i kommentarfeltet, for det har de klart.)

Condottieri skriver i den anledning “At noen mener at dette inngår i en ellers viktig debatt om hevnporno og kneblingen av kvinner i den offentlige debatten synes vi er veldig underlig.” I’s verden er nemlig kontekst svært viktig, men bare den konteksten de hadde i tankene. Dette var et program om krenkelser, og da er det plutselig en irrelevant kontekst at det å fremstille meningsmotstandere i en seksuell sammenheng er en alminnelig form for latterliggjøring og hets i den skyggessiden av det moderne, utvidete mediebildet som Condottieri selv, i innledningen til samme innlegg, beskriver som et stort samfunnsproblem. Men det er klart, jeg er mann, og mange av disse taktikkene er mest brukt mot og mest effektive mot kvinner, (sarcasm warning) så da blir det jo helt forståelig at Condottieri ikke ser sammenhengen.

At disse trollene, når de ser behov for et annet forsvar enn at de er frontkjempere for ytringsfriheten, gjerne argumenterer som et ekko av prosjektleder Heyerdahl som skriver at “innslaget er såpass absurd og tullete at det ikke kan sies å ha injurierende kraft” er selvsagt heller ikke relevant kontekst. For Heyerdahl er det tydeligvis bare det som er ulovlig etter injurieloven man ikke kan tillate seg i media. Det er, i deres verden, irrelevant at innslaget ikke kunne eksistert uten den konteksten at jeg var og er i en meningskonflikt med dem. For på tross av Sprudelwassers utsagn om at hun og redaksjonen ikke “har noe som helst imot […] engasjement i kampen mot porno og vi har absolutt ikke noe ønske om å kneble [noen]” ser de ikke meningsmotstandernes argumenter som relevante. Dermed er det irrelevant at virkemiddelet er til forveksling likt det som brukes av de som faktisk har til hensikt å kneble motparten og at disse applauderer høylytt i landets kommentarfelt over at Sprudelwasser “setter feministene på plass”.

Andre argumenter fra Sprudelwasser har gått på at formen på min deltagelse i media og samfunnsdebatt ellers inviterer til et outrert tilsvar, og igjen hører jeg ekkoet fra nettrollene. “Han/hun fortjener ikke annet siden han/hun har sagt dette/kledd seg slik/mener dette.” Men (sarcasm warning) innslaget var jo ikke ment som et partsinnlegg i pornodebatten, så da blir det jo noe helt annet.

Og før Dagbladet starter en leserundersøkelse om hvem som blir krenket eller ikke, eller noen påpeker at det neppe blir en trend å bestille porno for mange hundre kroner for å hetse meningsmotstandere, det er faktisk irrelevant hvem og hvor mange som blir krenket, eller at nettrollene må nøye seg med barnlige skisser i paint sendt via twitter, Sprudelwasser alminneliggjør noe som hun og redaksjonen tydeligvis ser ville være uakseptabelt i andre kontekster og effekten av denne alminneliggjøringen er ikke kontekstspesifikk.

Men det er klart, noen vil jo alltids mene det er akseptabelt at jeg blir møtt av et kommentarfelt fylt med referanser til dette innslaget om jeg uttaler meg om Grønnlandsisen i neste uke og at jeg i samme anledning får innboksen fylt med kunst basert på skjermbilder fra samme. Trollene er jo også Charlie, må vite.

Karl Jackson


Lavmåls fra Trygdekontoret

Trygdekontoret bestilte skreddersydd sexfilm til episode med tema porno. Til forargelse for mange, men kringkastingsrådet regnet det for innafor det akseptable. Personlig er jeg enig med dem, men jeg kan forstå de som er uenige. Det er mye som er problematisk med pornografi.

Mange mener alt er problematisk med pornografi og Kari Jaquesson gikk så langt som å si at hun vil politianmelde dette for brudd på sexkjøpsloven. Trygdekontorets respons, ny porno, denne gangen med innlagt parodi av Jaquesson. Jeg har lite til overs for Jaquesson og synes politianmeldelse er i overkant, men med denne responsen, og i sitt forsvar for responsen, viser Trygdekontorets redaksjon at de mangler grunnleggende folkeskikk og respekt for debattklimaet i samfunnet.

Innslaget var ment som satire, sier prosjektlederen for programmet og forsvarer seg med at det var et så tullete innslag at det ikke kan sies å ha injurierende kraft. Som om det er det de kritiseres for. Det finnes faktisk flere regler for hva som er akseptable virkemidler i media enn injurielovgivningen. Det norske pornoforbudet og en generelt avvisende holdning til pornografi er kanskje på kant med realitetene i et Norge der et internasjonalt usensurert internett gir alle enkel tilgang til den forbudne frukten, men det er fortsatt sånn at å parodiere noen ved å plassere dem i en pornofilm vil oppleves som en krenkelse av svært mange.

Legg til på toppen at dette ikke er en vanlig sketsj, men skreddersydd faktisk porno, og at Trygdekontoret ikke belyser en hvilken som helst medieoppstuss med sitt forsøk på “satire”, men en der de selv er part, og Thomas Seltzer og redaksjonen kan ikke annet enn å betegnes som klønete amatører.

Songs that make me tear up or choke

So our assistant principal is taking early retirement and we spent the end of the day today eating cake and listening to speeches and songs showing how much everyone at school have appreciated his presence and efforts. One of those songs was Erik Vea by Norwegian group Di Derre, a song that can make me tear up at the best of times. Watching the soon to be retiree sing it with friends and colleagues definitely did, and then he sat down and they and we sang it again, this time with rewritten personalized lyrics. I admit I couldn’t get all the words out.

I’m not usually a sentimental guy. Admittedly I once cried watching the President’s speech in Independence Day just before they go out and kick alien butt, but I’d been awake for 30 hours and I was also 21 and on a plane bound for the US to hang out with people I only knew through the internet. But when it comes to songs there are some that just hit me in the feels every time, even when I’m not sleep deprived, and on my bicycle ride home from work I wondered if overdosing on them would lead to an increasing or a decreasing effect and decided to run the experiment.

The experiment I’ve just done is seriously flawed. For instance I didn’t properly establish a baseline, but relied on anecdotal evidence in the form of my memories of previous encounters with these songs, and I hadn’t set up the criteria for rejecting the null hypothesis, or even decided on a null hypothesis, ahead of time. But what I have learned is that attempting to sing along greatly enhances the effect, something I already knew, and that in a poorly designed experiment there’s no evidence of a reduced effect.

Here’s the list of songs I did emotional battle with today:

Let It Go – from Frozen, preferably the movie version, not the record version with a different singer. (Yeah, I know the name of that singer, I just don’t want to mention it, since I never remember the name of the singer on the version I do like.)

It’s of course the whole context of this song that gets to me. How Elsa’s been emotionally imprisoned all through adolescence, but is now freed by the unintended revealing of her secret. Even just reading these lyrics affects me despite the attempt at desensitization.

Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

American Pie – Don McLean. This one was getting to me even before I knew anything about the back story.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

And not as powerful (I can sing this one without choking most of the time) but worth an honourable mention, Weird Al Yankovic’s rewrite of this song to tell the story of Star Wars Episode I – The Saga Begins. One of the best songs Weird Al has produced from someone else’s. (He’s written some great original songs as well.)

And the Jedi I admire most
Met up with Darth Maul and now he’s toast
Well, I’m still here and he’s a ghost
I guess I’ll train this boy

Seasons in the sun by Terry Jacks appears to affect me less now than 20-25 years ago, but it was part of this experiment, and it was probably the first song that I couldn’t sing along to.

Learned of love and ABC’s,
skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.
Goodbye my friend, it’s hard to die,

And finally, one of my favourites. Listed as number 23. on this list of the 30 Top 12 string guitar songs of all time by Guitar World and described there as a sci-fi masterpiece, Queen’s ’39 is the only song I know that involves Einstein’s relativity and time dilation. Written by astrophysicist / rock superstar guitarist Brian May it’s a brilliant song, with excellent use of the 12 string guitar.

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand

For my life
Still ahead
Pity Me.

And if you’re now thinking, but what about the song you mentioned first, well here’s a tiny little bit about Erik Vea by Norwegian group Di Derre. A song about a speed skater aiming for a way too ambitious result in the Norwegian national championships of 1973, and how watching this attempt and inevitable failure inspired the singer.

My translation of the refrain:

Does anyone remember Erik Vea
From the championships in ’73
Is there someone who can say where he is now
Did he go home?
Did he get his lap times down?

En myte om kongehusets legitimitet

Et vanlig argument fra landets kose-rojalister, når det ikke holder med at de kongelige jo er så fine, er at kongedømmet jo ble demokratisk innført. Og for de fleste så er vel det noe de vagt husker. Nesten enstemmighet i 1905 for selvstendighet og stort flertall for kongedømme. Det er bare det at det ikke stemmer. Det var aldri noen avstemming som satte kongedømmet opp mot noen annen statsform og den avstemmingen som faktisk ble avholdt inviterte på ingen måte velgerne til å følge sine prinsipper.

“Den norske kongefamilien fikk sitt mandat i en folkeavstemming der statsform ikke var tema, der en sikkerhetspolitisk garanti lå i potten og der regjeringen truet med å gå av om den ikke fikk det ja-svaret den ba om.”

Kjetil Bragli Alstadheim Republikken Norge

Avstemmingen (der 20 % av de som stemte var mot) var ikke et valg av republikk vs. kongedømme. Det var “Støtt regjeringen i å spørre prins Carl for å raskt få stabilitet og for å få gode forbindelser og støtte fra England” vs. “Vet da faen, men noen må vel ta ansvar hvis dere trosser oss og vi tar våre hatter og går.”

Ikke at det betyr så veldig mye hva folk valgte og hvorfor i 1905 for noe som er et prinsippspørsmål og burde løses som ett i 2014, men det er jo greit å ha argumentene i bakhånd om man skulle diskutere med de prinsippløse.

Hell Yes, I’m a Feminist


Hell Yes, I’m a Feminist

Originally posted on Whatever:

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece on my personal feminism, in which I noted that while I can be considered a feminist on the fundamental level of “women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty,” I usually didn’t call myself one, for various and what I thought at the time were perfectly reasonable reasons.

Then 2014 happened, and those reasonable reasons now kind of feel like careful, rationalizing bullshit to me.

So, as an update to my thoughts on my personal feminism:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Mind you, I don’t think this declaration comes as much of a surprise. I think people are aware of my general feelings on feminism, and I’ve not been shy about the topic before, when it’s suited me.

Here’s the thing about that —…

View original 328 more words

The misandrists and shirtgate

If you didn’t notice the slight kerfuffle about a particular shirt worn by an ESA scientist the other day, this post is mostly not for you, but feel free to read it anyway.

There are lots of misandrists out there. At least if you use the sensible definition of looking down on men, or a subset of men. It’s a real problem. It could be observed just recently when a scientist made the mistake of wearing a shirt with a tasteful tribute to beautiful women and twitter exploded with people expressing their profound disappointment with his choice of apparel and also dared link it to the general problem of women not staying in the STEM fields. The misandrists came out in force. They were the ones thinking it was a horrible offence to express the opinion that the shirt was offensive and thereby forcing a proper man, a man with a beard, to do the unmanly thing and apologise.

Note how these people, who thought the feminist twitterverse’s expression of disappointment was unnecessary, over the top* and downright mean and abusive to a scientist deserving of accolade, can’t accept his change of heart and apology. No, he was obviously forced and bullied into apologising. There’s misandry for you. The narrow view that the negative stereotypes about men are true and should be true. Real men like shirts like that, and real men don’t apologise, so if they do apologise it can’t be because they had a change of heart, or were embarrassed by a thoughtless choice of shirt, and realised this due to mild mannered, non-threatening tweets, it has to be because they were bullied by the PC juggernaut of feminist society.


*personally I think they have a point there. I think it merited the first couple of tweets and large scale retweeting of those tweets, but people should save writing more tweets of their own for bigger issues. But that’s an extenstion of my opinion that people other than me should shut up more often. Partly that’s because I’ve gotten quite good at keeping my trap shut over the years, and I dislike my occasional pearls of wisdom being drowned in the flood of not as eloquent utterings. And partly it’s about … no, I think people shutting up more often covers it.


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