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November 3, 2012

Pure insanity (3/11/2012)
Every now and then someone corrects me when I say that some anti-vaccination liars are insane. Now I realise that saying that could be seen as demeaning people with psychiatric illnesses, but what else can you say when you see something like this? There is no other possible diagnosis.


Discouraging discoveries (3/11/2012)
During the week I went to an excellent seminar on vaccination at the Garvan Institute. Afterwards I was chatting to people and found that one of the people close to the organisers thinks that chiropractors and osteopaths are very useful medical practitioners and only a tiny minority of rebels oppose vaccination, real medicine and the germ theory of disease. He has a chiropractor work on shoulder strains caused by rock climbing. It was a waste of time to point out that manipulation shoulders is not a part of chiropractic and that I have seen incontrovertible evidence that the CAA opposes vaccination despite their public statements to the contrary.

The next day I went to the dentist. My dentist has just had a baby. I mentioned that I had had a late night at the vaccination seminar and had a few days later in the month when I might not be able to get drilled because of the continuing AVO matter and the convention. She asked me if I was against vaccination. She then went on to tell me that she had researched vaccination on the Internet and was worried about the number of vaccines in the schedule, the load on children by exposing them to too many vaccines at once, and the mercury.

Both of these people have had medical training. Both must be aware of the difference between evidence and anecdote. Both should be able to see through quackery, nonsense and anti-medicine without any help from me. But they can't.

I'm still sighing.



See more Jesus and Mo here


The end of the world is coming! (3/11/2012)
Well, maybe not. If you are in the Canberra area on December 8 you could spend some time productively by listening to me present possibly the last ever talk to Canberra Skeptics. The title is "The Last Canberra Skeptics Meeting Ever? A Skeptical Take on the Upcoming End-Of-The-World" and you can find the details of time and place here.


Shonky Awards (3/11/2012)
Another thing I attended during the week was the announcement of the Choice Shonky Awards. These are presented annually by Choice Magazine to products that they think don't meet their high standards of usefulness or value for money. The six winners this year were:



See more Red Meat here


Oh my goodness, a critic (3/11/2012)
One No truth. No courage. No value.advantage of the current legal action being attempted against me is that it has brought the mouth breathers out of their hidey holes, thus providing amusement for everyone. Tim Bolen has been ably assisting the applicant by publishing things the court might not view favourably and our old friend the Gutless Anonymous Liar has managed to find time on the computer at the GAL Home For The Terminally Ancephalic and with the assistance of someone to wipe the chin foam off the keyboard has been commenting on my blog. It has even sent me an email. I hope Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group brings nice presents when he visits GAL at the home.

I would apologise for the language, but censorship is not in my nature.

Subject: "Stupid Mother Fucker ends up in Court Again!
Sender: <breaka@srv1.adept-hosting.net>
Date: Sat, 03 Nov 2012 01:01:46 +0800

Oh the humanity!? You poor poor man...hauled in front of the courts again. This must really play havoc with your declining health. To be so affronted when doing humanity's and god's work. Know that when your in front of the court on November 14th, we're all going to be rooting for you! But in a different way....

Hopefully you're sleep deprived, blood sugars all over the map, dysrhythmia, alcoholically poisoned, pissed off, dehydrated....and moments away from the myocardial infarct that's just around the corner for you and you so deserve.

This is really going to be such fun....do publish all the details on your organs... and do be truthful....we all know how you like to stretch the truth.....

And when you're gone there are so many of us committed to continue your legacy so the world won't forget what a complete useless fuckwad you were......



See more Lola here


Coincidence? (3/11/2012)
I was watching Louis Theroux's excellent television show about the asylum that is the Westboro Baptist Church, and a few minutes later I saw this portrait of Shirley Phelps on Facebook. Spooky. Both Shirley and the coincidence..


Something new (3/11/2012)
Someone asked during the week about the reliability of some quackery journal that looked like it might be scientific. This has prompted me to add another category to the Millenium Project lists - Disreputable Journals. It's only in test mode at the moment, but it will soon be a list of things that look like scientific or authoritative publications but are really something else. Suggestions are welcome.

In unrelated news, I've added a lot more quotes to the collection. Browse your way forward from here.

November 10, 2012

Before we start (10/11/2012)
Anyone who has ever had to write to a deadline will understand this. I found the picture on Facebook, and as usual it was not attributed to anyone.


Good news! Spread it! (10/11/2012)
I hadn't heard much lately about the despicable Immunisation Awareness Society in New Zealand. At one time they were spreading lies about paracetamol causing diseases and this gives you an idea of how unhinged they were. Of course they spread the usual lies about vaccination with the only "awareness" they are interested in being something like "Don't do it! Your children will die".

They rose to the top of the swamp in September, when the NZ Charities Registration Board looked at the charitable status of the IAS and decided that it was time to end the farce. You can read the full statement here, but this is the important part:

  1. The Board determines that the Society is not qualified for registration as a charitable entity because it is not established and maintained for exclusively charitable purposes as required by section 13(1 )(b)(i) of the Act. The Board considers that the Society's main purpose is to promote a point of view in regards to vaccination, which does not advance education and is not a valid charitable purpose in New Zealand law. Further, the Society has a purpose to seek a change in the government's policy in regard to vaccination, which is a non-charitable purpose in New Zealand law. Neither of the Society's non-charitable purposes can be considered ancillary to any valid charitable purpose of the Society.
  2. As the Society has independent (i.e. non-ancillary) non-charitable purposes, it does not meet registration requirements and it is in the public interest to proceed with the Society's removal from the Charities Register. As such, the grounds for removal under section 32(1 )(a) of the Act are satisfied in relation to the Society.
  3. The decision of the Board is therefore to remove the Society from the register, pursuant to section 31 of the Act, with effect from 19 October 2012.

Now, if the authorities in Australia will just do the same to the Australian Vaccination Network ...



See more Cetic here


Quackery desperation. (10/11/2012)
Speaking of Schadenfreude, it has been very entertaining to see the recent panic among the online shills for cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski. Stan employs a group of people to support him on Twitter using the hashtag #Burzynski. (Note, when I say "employ" I don't necessarily mean that they get paid. Maybe they do it because they really believe that a person who has been lying and stealing money for 30 years really is a good person who needs defending. They, of course, regularly accuse anybody who criticises Burzynski of being paid by Big Pharma.) These people post about no other topic than Burzynski, they do not answer questions and their response to almost anything is to offer either personal insults or references to meaningless publications that don't show that Burzynski's snake oil works. An example of insult is that one of them keeps going on about my age (calling me "grandpa", for example) despite the fact that I am several years younger than his hero. Many of the shills claim to be new to Twitter but they all seem to have had no trouble finding the correct hashtag to use.

There was a hiatus recently when they were all absent. We put this down to the need to develop a market strategy to replace the income from a victim who had died (a death which to this day has not been acknowledged by any of the shills - a dead victim immediately becomes a non-person), but then the news broke - the FDA had given Burzynski until November 1 to say that he was going to remove lies from his web sites.

As stated above, some of the above-referenced claims suggest that the drugs are "well tolerated," "work without causing side effects," and have demonstrated "remarkable" results. The totality of these claims suggest that Antineoplastons, investigational new drugs, are safe and/or effective for the treatment of the various types of brain tumors indicated above, when they have not been approved for these uses.

Since Antineoplastons are investigational new drugs, the products’ indication(s), warnings, precautions, adverse reactions, and dosage and administration have not been established and are unknown at this time. Promoting Antineoplastons as safe and effective for the purposes for which they are under investigation, by making representations such as those noted above, is in violation of 21 CFR 312.7(a).

Conclusion and Requested Action

For the reasons discussed above, the websites violate the FD&C Act and FDA implementing regulations. 21 CFR 312.7(a). These claims are concerning from a public health perspective because they make promotional claims about the safety and efficacy of investigational new drugs that have not been approved by the FDA.

OPDP requests that you immediately cease the dissemination of violative promotional materials for Antineoplastons such as those described above. Please submit a written response to this letter on or before November 1, 2012, stating whether you intend to comply with this request, and explaining your plan for discontinuing use of such violative materials.

You can read the complete document here.

As soon as this date came around the shills were back in action with diversion, distraction, insults, non sequiturs and outright lies. They were obviously desperate to show that the FDA really loves Burzynski, and they came up with a memo written in 1991 which they claimed vindicated Burzynski by saying that "The human brain tumor responses are real". The memo referred to Phase 1 tests and the shills never mentioned the rest of the paragraph:

Antineoplastons deserve a closer look. It turns out that the agents are well defined, pure chemical entities. They are relatives of Thalidomide with presumed good CNS penetration. We are working with DTEP on them. The human brain tumor responses are real.

So the drugs might have had potential to do something, but the shills would not respond to any questions about Thalidomide because as everyone knows it is a deadly chemical made by Big Pharma. The other thing they will not discuss is the hand-written comment:

Why not test them indeed? Burzynski has only had twenty years to get around to it. Maybe he'll actually publish something one day. You can see the 1991 memo here.

When it was pointed out that 1991 was a long time ago and the memo doesn't prove that antineoplastons cure cancer the response was immediate and loud. It didn't matter how old it was. A memo inside the National Cancer Institute at any time trumped an order from the FDA in 2012. Antineoplastons work and the NCI has said so in a ringing endorsement.

Sane people or those without a PR agenda might see the failure in this logic, but while we were being told that age of documents didn't matter (although my age does!) the shills were being pointed to a document produced by the Office of Technology Assessment in 1990. The title was "Unconventional Cancer Treatments". It was a quite comprehensive examination of various forms of quackery around at the time, many of which still survive today. You can read the whole thing here, but pay particular attention to page 91, where Chapter 5 starts with a look at Burzynski. Once you've noticed that nothing has changed in his operation in the 22 years since you might like to amuse yourself by looking at the other quacks and noting that they have nothing in common except a desire to steal money from desperate people. I am always amused when Burzynski supporters tell me about Gerson, because if one of them is 1% right about the causes and cures for cancer the other is 100% wrong. In reality, both are 100% wrong.

So, in summary, a memo written in 1991 is completely up to date and relevant and shows that antineoplastons work despite the suggestion that actual tests be done, an order made in 2012 means nothing because the FDA loves Burzynski and wants him to do Phase 3 trials (which cost $200 million so he can't start) and an OTA investigation in 1990 is meaningless because it's too old. And if you can reconcile all those statements there's a PR job going in Houston. You just need a Twitter account and a false name.



See more Sci-ənce here


RTFP. Read the fine print (10/11/2012)
So, this advertisement pops up on Facebook saying that I can make $97 per hour working from home with a computer. I was glad that smell won't be introduced until HTML17, otherwise I would have been knocked over by the stench of scam. I decided to take a look and found a story about a woman in my town, Wentworth Falls, who is raking in the dough so fast she had to put on an assistant to help her spend it. Or something like that. (Her name is Kate Robinson. Her husband is Richard. There is nobody named Robinson with the initial "R" or "K" with a telephone number in Wentworth Falls.) Underneath this story of financial success there was a collection of testimonials formatted to look like blog comments, all from people with only one name, all having enormous success with this system. I have to act fast to buy into the scheme because there are only two places left in November.

Right at the bottom of the page, and well past where you have to click on the link to buy into the program, there is a disclaimer. I have applied the old yellow marker to some words in the second paragraph.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS CAREFULLY READ AND AGREE TO PURCHASE TERMS BELOW BEFORE ORDERING:

We are not affiliated in any way with CNN, WebTV, News Channel 7, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News or FOX. CNN, WebTV, News Channel 7, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News, FOX, and Consumer Reports are all registered trademarks of their respective owners. © All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.

It is important to note that this site and the stories depicted above is to be used as an illustrative example of what some individuals have achieved with this/these products. This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this blog, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. This blog, and the results mentioned on this blog, although achievable for some, are not to be construed as the results that you may achieve on the same routine. I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS/THESE PRODUCTS, AND THAT THE STORY DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site.

"Not to be taken literally as a non-fiction story". I love it! This is possibly the best disclaimer I have ever seen on a scam. It is even better than the one I made up for my fictional multi-level marketing scheme, The Ratbags Dream. The beauty is that victims will have no grounds for action against the scheme promoters, because the disclaimer says "Don't trust us. We tell lies".

November 12, 2012

Condolences (12/11/2012)
I was thinking about the cancellation of charity status for the NZ Immunisation Awareness Society, and I decided that they would probably appreciate a Kind and Gentle email as they would have been feeling a bit down.

You could have no idea how happy I was to read that your charity registration has been cancelled

We don't hear much about you here in Australia, and checking my records shows that the last time I had anything to do with you it was when you were lying about paracetamol in 2004. You can read what I had to say about you then at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/ias.htm

I must send congratulations to Darcy, Ben and Grant. Perhaps they can help us get the charity registration of your Australian counterpart cancelled too. Charities are supposed to do good in the world not contribute to the deaths and illness of children, the inevitable result of your insane opposition to vaccines.

Just to cheer you up, there has been an outbreak of measles near my place. I'm sure this brings a smile to your face, even if it just brings fear to the faces of the children's parents. But what would you care about that? They aren't your children.

(Darcy was the person who submitted the report to the authorities that resulted in the charity status cancellation. Ben and Grant helped out with support on their blogs. Their actions made the IAS cry.)

November 17, 2012

Polio vaccination – thank you very much! (17/11/2012)
I've had an article published in Mamamia.

I recently spent a few weeks on crutches because of a broken ankle, and I had a vaccination against pneumonia today. These reminded me of my earliest memory of being vaccinated.

Shortly after my twelfth birthday I was rushed to hospital to have my appendix removed. Back in those days it wasn’t the simple keyhole job it is today so I had to spend a few days in the hospital to recuperate. Another thing about the olden days was that there was no gender separation, and one of the other patients in the children’s ward at Hornsby Hospital was a girl about ten or eleven years old.

Read the rest of this here.


And speaking of polio ... (17/11/2012)
Here's a book written in 1955 by someone who had polio as a child. Think of your own children and imagine your reaction to one of them saying "I can jump puddles". Most of us would respond "That's nice" without thinking, because we couldn't imagine why it was newsworthy. I think the vilest of the anti-vaccination liars are those who claim that the polio vaccine did nothing and polio was simply renamed. How anybody can retain respect for anyone who says such a thing is beyond my imagination.

I Can Jump Puddles


Court report (17/11/2012)
The Caravan of AVO Aggravation called in to Ballina Court House on Thursday, November 15. As Ballina is almost 750 kilometres from my place I had asked to be excused attendance (it was not to be a full hearing, but just a short appearance to set a date) and had applied to the court to have further hearings held in a more convenient place. I expected any change of venue to be resisted by the AVO applicant but her inconvenience is not my problem. As a compromise, the magistrate adjourned the matter to December 10 in Lismore. As Lismore is about 50 kilometres further from my house than Ballina you might think that this is not what I wanted, but Lismore Court House has something that Ballina lacks - video linking facilities. This means that I can attend Lismore Court remotely from a court house which is convenient to me. As soon as I receive the paperwork I can go to a nearby court house and make arrangements to use their link setup.

So, in summary, what was going to happen on November 15 will now happen on December 10, but I won't have to spend three days away from home to go to court. I suspect that this will not be the last appearance, however, but I'll report back here whatever the result.

Lismore Court House
Lismore Court House



See more Matt Bors here


Which reminds me ... (17/11/2012)
A few years ago I listed some words which can be used as indicators that you can stop reading because the writer is either too lazy or too illiterate to bother with any further. The words in the original list were:

I've got a few more I would like to add to the list.

If I'm going to be remembering and recycling, I suppose I can use this relevant joke again.


See more XKCD here


MindBodySpirit Festival (17/11/2012)
To save everyone else the pain I went to the Sydney MindBodySpirit Festival on Friday, November 9. I've been going to these things for some years and they are always great fun as long as you stay away from the medical quackery. That seems to be reducing over time and most of the ones still there are the sort which are harmless (unless they discourage people with real illnesses from getting proper treatment) and are so transparently nonsense that surely most people must just see them as a form of entertainment, in the same way that many people get pleasure from a little gambling. (I won Lotto a couple of weeks ago. As you might gather from the fact that I'm here typing and not picking out fittings for a yacht, it was not a big win. First prize was in excess of $100 million and was split between four winners. My share of the pool was $20.10, which was enough for a t-bone steak and chips plus a small beer at my local pub.)

The homeopaths and iridologists seem to have disappeared and I only saw one chiropractor. I like there to be two chiropractors so I can go to both and be told that I put more weight on one foot than the other. In my youth I spent a lot of time ballroom dancing and riding a surfboard and I can still move my weight from one foot to the other without moving the top of my body. Whichever foot bears the most I am always told that I have something severely wrong and I need to book in for 1, 2, 42, 438 or eleventy-nine treatments to get it all fixed. None of them have ever noticed that I have Type 2 diabetes. There were Reiki practitioners, reflexologists and stands offering various forms of massage, but who hasn't felt better after a relaxing lie down with someone gently fiddling with parts of their body?

There were a few religious groups there. The Church of Scientology are now honest and not calling themselves Dianetics like they did in the past. The Salvation Army had a stand but I didn't get a chance to ask them about the Christocentric Healing people who were immediately behind them. At least the Christocentric people didn't have the man with long hair and a beard dressed in flowing robes like Jesus and the great big cross that they have had in prior years. Even my atheist friends were offended by that. I spent some time talking to some Christians who offer free prayer with passers-by. They asked if I wanted to pray with them and when I said that I am an atheist they lady quick as a flash said "Well, can we pray for you?" and smiled. These folk are relatively harmless and, like the Salvation Army, were just doing what they believe Jesus asked them to do. I didn't challenge them on their views on evolution, abortion or the child abuse scandal swirling around some churches because I didn't have all day and as they weren't there to address any of those issues it would have been impolite to bring them up. Picking fights for no good reason doesn't advantage anyone.

The usual range of stands selling food and beverages was there. Most of it had "organic" in big letters, but there were few claims of wondrous results from eating or drinking the stuff on display. I think I saw only one miracle weight-loss food, but the rest just make vague claims about wellness in the same way that, for example, yoghurt makers hint at the benefits of eating live bacteria. There were at least two organic winemakers there. I've tasted their products in the past and they are good wines and I don't care if they talk to the vines, do their pruning by the stars or tickle individual grapes with a paintbrush as long as the end product is acceptable. I've heard crazy stuff from conventional winemakers too, and Australia's most expensive wine is bought because of the label and nobody ever drinks it. I did miss the hot chilli sauce people who have been there in previous years, and I noticed that the Mayan coffee people were missing. Probably thought they wouldn't be able to fill all the orders before December 21. (Serious note - last time I was there the Mayan coffee people were next to a stand warning about the coming end of the world. The Mayans did not seem concerned.)

The number of stands selling clothing was down from previous years. I usually picked up something that was difficult to buy in mainstream shops, generally because of the type of fibre used, but perhaps the market isn't big enough now to justify bringing stock to Sydney and paying for and manning a stall for four days. It could be that the number of ancient hippies that go to the festival is falling off, maybe because the retirement homes get paid more to bus residents to the casino than they get for a trip to the festival.

As expected there was no shortage of stands offering psychic readings, aura photographs, sketches of personal angels as well as books, crystals and devices to allow one to connect to one's inner self. These are forms of voluntary taxation and without them there would be no point to the festival. A couple that I missed from previous years were the gong bath, where the credit card owner sits near a big brass gong and gets washed with sound waves when the man from J. Arthur Rank gets to work, and the American Indian teepee which offered the advantages to be gained from sitting inside a teepee. These advantages were never fully explained, but probably did not include being invaded and having your land stolen. I would have been more impressed if they had included a bison burger in the entry fee.

Will I go back? Of course I will. It's a fun day out, any harm you do you do to yourself (or your bank account), there are interesting things to do and see, and you can be amazed at the sort of things that people will believe. I was disappointed that the man who was going to give a talk on Quantum Physics and the Supernatural Realm didn't turn up, but the excellent raspberry cake I had with a coffee made up for it, specially as I got a discount because I was wearing a media pass. Just don't tell anyone that the cake was gluten-free. I'd never live it down.

November 24, 2012

Burzynski has a win. Or does he? (24/11/2012)
Listening to the moans of ecstasy and the shrieks of delight coming from the supporters of cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski this week you could easily imagine you had stumbled upon the set of a really cheap porn movie, but it was all because the Texas Medical Board had dropped its case against him. Apparently this validates his thievery and proves that he really can cure cancer. The case had been meandering through the legal system since 2010, which was enough for one of his anonymous Twitter employees to declare that he had overcome "four years of intensive investigation". 2012 minus 2010 equals 4. (The AVO case against me started on September 5. Following the next scheduled court date there will have been three court hearings for a total of fifteen minutes over a period of more than three months and the real thing won't have started. The legal process is like this.)

In the world of reality, the Board had taken action against Burzynski himself but he was able to convince them that the questionable work that had led to the enquiry had not been done by him but by doctors he employed. Even though his name is on the door and these people are supposedly working under his supervision he takes no responsibility for what they do or don't do. Everyone should have a boss like this.

I'll have some more to say when I've had time to read the complete statement from the Board, but I think claims of total vindication are premature.



See more Atheist Pig here


Anti-vaccination liars get their wish (24/11/2012)
This story appeared in the press this week:

Alert over baby girl contracting measles virus in Adelaide

A FOUR-MONTH-OLD Adelaide girl has contracted the highly infectious measles virus, SA Health says.

It is the second case of measles in South Australia in the past two months.

SA Health chief medical officer Paddy Phillips said measles was highly contagious among people who were not fully immunised and was spread through coughing and sneezing.

It must have brought a warm glow to the insides of members of an organisation called Vaccination Information Serving Australia (formerly Vaccination Information South Australia). Here they are in the media a few years back:

SA disease unit condemns measles exposure advice

South Australia's Human Services Department is urging people to ignore an anti-vaccination group's call for children to be deliberately exposed to people sick with measles.

Vaccination Information South Australia wants a register of current measles cases so that children who have not been immunised can catch the infected and acquire immunity, that it says will protect them for life.

Robert Givney from the Communicable Diseases Unit says in the last 30 years there have been almost 100 deaths in Australia from measles .

"I can only reiterate we would not do this, even if we were given permission, we would not involve ourselves in what we see as a really dangerous activity," he said.

"We really wouldn't recommend to anyone that they try to acquire measles."

By the look of this disgusting organisation's web site they are in complete disarray. That can only be a good thing, however I think they need a Kind and Gentle email offering my professional services.


He offers to help (24/11/2012)
I'm An olive brancha great believer in reconciliation and extending a metaphorical olive branch to people in order to establish communication and rapport with them. When I saw the hideous mess of a web site belonging to Vaccination Information Serving Australia I felt that I just had to help them to move beyond 1997 and actually start communicating their agenda of harming children instead of having site visitors cry out "What the ...?" and go elsewhere to find information about putting their children at risk of death and disability. Thus this Kind and Gentle email:

Dear Ms Scarborough,

I was looking over the VISA web site and I notice you have some problems. All the image links on the front page are broken. The original "South Australia" pages all have links back to the "Serving Australia" front page, but there does not seem to be any links back the other way. This makes it very confusing for visitors as they might not be able to find the valuable information you have on the site. It also makes it difficult for search engines to index the site, reducing the number of potential visitors

I do web site maintenance as part of my IT consultancy business, and even though I might not agree with you about vaccination I'm sure we could come to some suitably agreeable arrangement. As I am in Sydney and I assume you are in Adelaide we could communicate by Skype and email, as I can do this work from anywhere.

I hope this offer of help is not taken badly. I once made a similar offer to Ms Dorey at the Australian Vaccination Network and she interpreted it as a threat and a form of harassment which was obviously never my intention.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to helping VISA to more effectively communicate with your target market.



See more WuMo here


He writes stuff (24/11/2012)
The latest edition of Australasian Science magazine is in the newsstands and on its way to subscribers. This is Australia's best science magazine for the non-scientist and always contains a range of excellent, easy to read articles written by scientists who know what they are talking about. Subscription costs about the same as two cups of coffee a month, and as well as a very nice looking paper copy, subscribers get access to the magazine online, including back issues, plus notifications of science news as it happens.

As well as all that writing by highly-qualified scientists there is my monthly Naked Skeptic column. I am much more comfortable writing it now that the snow season in Wentworth Falls is over. Here Australasian Scienceis the latest effort.

Will your smart meter make you less smart?

Smart electricity meters are back in the news. The idea of smart meters seems like a good one, as monitoring use at frequent intervals has the possibility of smoothing consumption, thereby reducing the need for generating capacity, and reducing consumer costs by education about patterns of use and misuse of electricity at individual locations.

Nothing seems to happen in our society without objections, and objections and comments are coming from several directions. I’ll apply a skeptical magnifying glass to a few of these.

You can read the rest here.

And if you think I'm joking about the snow, here is my car on October 10, 2012. Remember, this is half-way through Spring.



See more Bad Chemicals here


The crazy runs deep (24/11/2012)
During the week I was told that Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network was to appear on a radio program, possibly to discuss matters which related to an ongoing court case that is of interest to me. The radio station is called Fair Dinkum Radio and exists only on the Internet. For those not familiar with the intricacies of the Australian language, "fair dinkum" is one of those expressions (like the German "Schadenfreude") which takes a lot of words to describe to a non-native speaker, but essentially it means "in accordance with the spirit and ethos of being a true Australian". Calling someone "fair dinkum" is high praise and means the person can be trusted with your wife (but not necessarily your daughter), your ute and your beer.

I haven't listened to the entire broadcast yet so I won't comment on what Ms Dorey had to say, but the first part was an unhinged rant by the show's host about the mass of conspiracies that are all around us. If I tell you that he likes UNESCO but hates the UN and he thinks that the Australian Commonwealth is a private corporation you might get an impression of his grasp on reality.

What I did notice, however, that the show used some iconic Australian music to reinforce it's fair dinkum qualifications. I wondered if the composers of these tunes were aware of their songs appearing as parentheses around alternating floods of mouth foam and flashes of white hot burning stupid.

The first piece of music was Rolf Harris's "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport", a song that every Australian child learns at his mother's knee before attending kindergarten. I wrote to Rolf through his web site:

I was rather surprised to hear a totally crazy online radio program using "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" as its theme. As Rolf never struck me as an insane conspiracy theorist I assume the music is being used without permission. You can listen to the programs at fairdinkumradio.com

Thank you (and thank you to Rolf for the decades of entertainment.)

And his music publisher replied (the man with his finger on the copyright button):

Dear Peter

Thank you so much for your email and the information, we will certainly look into this.

You're absolutely right, "a conspiracy theorist" is certainly a title that doesn't apply to Rolf.

Again thank you for getting in touch and I send my very best wishes.

Grahame

The next musical interlude was "True Blue" by John Williamson. I think this is a bit dirge-like, but apparently Australians go weak at the knee and wet at the eye when they hear this outside the country. It actually contains the words "fair dinkum". My email to John was similar to the one sent to Rolf.

I was rather surprised to hear a totally crazy online radio program using what sounds a lot like "True Blue" as a theme. As John never struck me as an insane conspiracy theorist I assume the music is being used without permission. You can listen to the programs at fairdinkumradio.com

Thank you (and thank you to John for the years of entertainment.)

And this is what his manager had to say:

Hi Peter,

Thank you for letting us know. I personally believe it is a misuse but have sent onto John's lawyer to review and then advise our next course of action. Thanks for looking out for John, I know he would appreciate it as do I! Cheers,

David

A lawyer is involved! Wonderful. My work here is done.




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