Monday, October 13, 2008

The physics (or chemistry) of homeopathy

Got invited to an interesting lecture this past Friday given by the Amazing Randi. It was a last minute thing, and of course since i didn't have anything better to do, I thought I'd join the nerds for what seemed to be at least an interesting lecture. First, you'd be amazed at how many nerds showed up (including me). Definitely, SRO.

The Amazing Randi is a sceptic and famous debunker of spiritualists. This includes those Sunday morning faith healers as well as new age healers etc. Unfortunately, most of the lecture consisted of his old Johnny Carson tracks. But that doesn't mean you couldn't learn something. For instance, he pointed out that some famous marketing products make such ridiculous claims that he couldn't understand how the average educated person (high school by the way) would fall for them. For instance, he pulled out a advertisement for shoes with magnets in the soles to help the wearer with circulation (since Iron is a metal, the magnet pulls the iron in the blood and helps circulations). There was something about unipolar magnets in the ad and the Amazing Randi rightly pointed out that such a thing existed, it would win the noble prize (once again high school physics, no magnet can be unipolar).

The most interesting part of the lecture had to do with homeopathy and actually analyzing the claims. The idea behind homeopathy is that you can cure an ailment by giving a small dosage of the cause of the ailment. For instance (e.g. by Randi) homeopathic sleeping pills are made with caffeine. But as the Amazing Randi pointed out, based on the dilution used, if you calculate the molar properties, you would find that you would need to take about 1,000,000 homeopathic pills before you even managed to potentially ingest even one molecule of caffeine.

Hurray, for science.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blind People and Wheel Chairs

I have been avoiding posting because I know I'm gonna write about my perverted landlord (or managing agent as the case may be) but this happened just this past week and I'm still so peeved.

When I get a day off, I try to schedule a day with my friend Cynthia and her mom, Bess. Bess is in a wheelchair. She isn't really that old, but as she ages, she gets frailer and frailer and she has had to rely more and more on others to get around. Despite this, she is still very independant and she has more strength of character than most people simply because she now has to rely on others for the most basic things, like help going to the bathroom.

When I first met Bess, she was using a walker and doing her best to remain active. She didn't want to give up her independence or have a stranger in her house. Suprisingly she gets out more now that she is in a wheelchair than she ever did on the walker.

Anyway, the reason I try to visit at least once a month is that my friend Cynthia cannot lift her mom's wheelchair, so in order for her mom to get someplace that isn't within walking distance, they need a 3rd wheel. I realized how important our "little adventures" are when I invited them to join me for a trip to Costco one weekend (on Amber's membership no less) and she put on lipstick for the event. Few placed in NY are wheelchair accessible, and adventures usually consist of shopping trips (what a novel idea, to pick out your own clothes) or the movies and dinner (Siam Orchid on Emmons Ave. is our favorite).

Anyway, Cynthia was in charge of a Big Politico Party at the NY Aquarium and she asked me to attend so that her mother would have a companion for the evening. Even though I had to leave work half an hour early, I said yes. Poor Cynthia was busy shmoozing with the likes of Marty Markowitz and me and her mom wandered around the animals until the Sealion show and dinner. (I'll digress for another moment and tell you Ayvek's baby boy looks just like him and I can't wait till he turns 4, Spook is off exhibit but doing fine at 46, Fonzie has been retired from show business but also doing fine and the Sea Otters [I could never tell Spanky & Danny apart] have grown to their full size and are gorgeous).

So, why am I mad? You have no idea how badly the other guests treated Bess. The few people who spoke to us, talked to her like she's an idiot while the rest avoided us. Seating for dinner was open and we were given a prime table, but no others would join us. I'm not just talking about the guests (which included the new Army commander at Fort Hamilton) but Cynthia's co-workers (and my former co-workers). We were 2 people alone at a table for 8. I can also tell you, that if the former director was there (Paul Boyle) this would have never happened. He would have made it a point to join us for part of the evening along with his wife despite the big muckity mucks hanging around.

Now that is not to say me and Bess didn't enjoy ourselves despite the situation. I have a feeling she is used to it, but despite the fact I see it, I don't get it. When did an infirm body mean an infirm mind? In a world with people like Steven Hawkings, you would think people would get it.

Anyway, I was so mad, I was ready to volunteer at a VA hospital with wheelchair bound vets, until my friend Barbara pointed out that only way for me to do something like that would be between 2-4am every other Wenesday. Then again, I'm not the type of person who actually let's reality dictate how I spend my non-existant free time. Let's see what I can do.