Archives October 2015

How Do You Spell “Booze”? C-V-S

(Update: Thanks to alert reader Fez for pointing out that 20% alcohol by volume is 40 proof, not 80. Oops. This somewhat mitigates, but doesn’t invalidate the rest of my points.)

We all know, of course, that the whole point of homeopathic remedies is that there’s no active ingredient in the bottle. So you might think, so who cares if people take this stuff? Either it’s just water and they’re not doing any harm, or else there’s something to this whole homeopathy thing, and they’re maybe doing some good. Except, of course, who knows what else is in the bottle?

Enter Yvette d’Entremont, who goes by SciBabe. I came across this news story of how she found a bottle of homeopathic laxative at a CVS drugstore that contained an obscene amount of alcohol. Go watch that.

I don’t know d’Entremont, so I thought I’d see if I could find this online, and what do you know?

CVS brand homeopathic constipation remedy, with 20% alcohol.

Wow. The ingredient list is right there: 20% ethanol, and water. That’s 8040-proof white lightning right there.

And it turns out that the CVS house brand isn’t the only one that sells hooch in a medicine bottle: Nova has this “throat complex” that lists “20% USP alcohol by volume”.

Oh, and this “Bloating Complex”, whatever that is. And this And this. And this. Basically, just about every bottle of orally-ingestible fluid from Nova that I saw listed in CVS’s web store was one-fifth alcohol.

I also liked Liddell’s claim that their homeopathic pain-killer is “20% Organic Alcohol”. As a Russian, I can’t disagree that a shot of 80- 40-proof will numb what ails you. As for the “organic” part, all alcohols have carbon atoms, and are therefore organic. Even the ones that’ll make you go blind or kill you.

I feel compelled to point out that if you’re under 21 and want to buy booze without getting carded, the stuff above retails for $8-$19 an ounce. By comparison, you can find 80-proof Mr. Boston vodka (Seriously? Someone thought “Mr. Boston” was a good name for vodka?) sells for $7 a bottle, which works out to 27 cents per ounce. Even fancy Stolichnaya works out to 63 cents an ounce.

(Update, from above: 40 proof would be your schnapps and brandies, some rums and tequilas.)

Now, I’m not going to criticize people who make an informed decision to drink themselves into an expensive stupor, if they so choose. But what about feeding it to someone who can’t give informed consent? I’m so glad you asked.

From what I saw, the homeopathic remedies aimed at toddlers and babies (yes, there is such a thing, because people suck) don’t seem to contain alcohol, and some of them prominently advertise this right on the label. So that’s ok— wait, what’s this?

Why, it appears to be a homeopathic substance aimed at animals (see “people suck”, above). Like the others, it’s 20% alcohol, or 80 40 proof. Should we give this to the nice German shepherd pictured on the label? My money’s on “not the smartest idea in the world”, but that’s just me.

And finally, there’s this abomination, also from HomeoPet, also 80 40 proof, except apparently you’re supposed to put it on your pet’s nose. Your furry friend whose sense of smell is a kajllion times more acute than yours. Yeah, if you think that’s a good idea, maybe you should stick your face in a bowl of chopped onions for half an hour.

I Don’t Want Flying Cars; I Just Want Working Bluetooth

I love Bluetooth. I love that it’s supported on all my various electronic gadgets, and lets them talk to each other and exchange information, be it streaming audio data, or a text note, or what have you.

Or at least I love the idea of Bluetooth. The unfortunate reality is that the implementations that I’ve seen never quite live up to the ideal.

For instances, it often takes several attempts to pair two devices, even when they’re two feet from each other. Sometimes devices disconnect for no obvious reason, or seem to become unpaired without me doing anything.

And then there’s the stuttering, which might be related. I have yet to find a Bluetooth headset, speaker, or other audio receiver that doesn’t stutter for five minutes until it finds it groove. In fairness, after the initial five minutes, things tend to stay pretty stable (at least until I, say, move my phone five feet further from the speaker, at which point, they need to resync). But if it’s a matter of the two devices negotiating, I don’t know, frequencies and data throttling rates and protocols, why don’t they do it at the beginning? Or is it a TCP thing, where the two start out using little bandwidth and ramping up over time?

Lastly, there are the tunnel-vision implementations. From what I’ve seen, the Bluetooth standard defines roles that each device can play, e.g., “I can play audio”, “I can dial a phone number”, “I can display an address card”, “I can store files”, and so forth. But in practice, that doesn’t always work: my cell phone sees my desk phone as an earpiece, and earpieces can’t handle address cards, don’t be silly, so I can’t copy my cell phone’s contact list to my desk phone.

In the age of the Internet of Things, my desk phone can store contacts, my TV can run a browser, and pretty soon my toaster will be able to share its 5G hotspot with the neighborhood. There’s no reason to be limited by a noun on the box it came in.

I understand that most of the above is likely caused by bad implementation of a fundamentally decent protocol. But Bluetooth has been around for, what, a decade or more? And I still regularly run into these problems. That points to something systemic in the software community.

Persuasion ≠ Persecution, Dumbasses

So I was pointed at an appalling post, and after clicking around a bit, found this other post, entitled “The battle Gay Rights advocates will never win”.

He (yes, the author is quite obviously male) goes on for a few pages, whining about bakeries being forced—forced!—to serve gay customers as though they were ordinary members of the public, and the usual whining. But if we skip down to the conclusion, he writes (emphasis added):

So to gay rights advocates I say – you may have been able to convince a large part of our population to think there is nothing wrong with your way of life – but you will never convince or convert Bible believing Christians into accepting your lifestyle or to service your weddings or other events than honor homosexuality.

Christians have faced far greater persecution than what you or the courts can bring against us and in your futile attempt to force total acceptance of homosexuality – you will actually strengthen and galvanize Bible believing Christianity, and if you are not careful you may turn others against you as they see the results of your persecution of Christians.

Many people have pointed out that right-wing homophobes behave as though they think that having to accept that gay people exist is somehow persecuting them; that telling them that they can’t just be dicks to anyone they feel like somehow limits their freedom of religion. But this guy actually says so. Normally I’d say that this marks him as a troll, but of course Poe’s Law says that there’s no way to distinguish a real belief from a parody, so who knows?

I also note that he writes “to gay rights advocates” about the problems with “your way of life”. Of course, many straight, monogamous, vanilla, dare I say boring people support gay rights. And while it would be nice to persuade him to be more accepting of people who aren’t exactly like him, I’ll settle for him obeying anti-discrimination laws, and telling him to suck it. And by “it” I mean a rainbow-colored dildo.

Pope Francis Might Not Be A Liberal Savior After All

BillDo, the founder and sole apparent member of the Catholic League, has decided to make himself useful by listing a number of things Pope Frankie Goes to Vatican has said that may not entirely square up with some people’s image of him as the liberalest theologian since Hippie Jesus.

A lot of these quotations are short, and thus I suspect that they’re as cherry-picked as anything, but some of them stood out to me (emphasis added by me, throughout):

“Those with alternative teachings and doctrines [have] a partial belonging to the church. [They] have one foot outside the church. They rent the church.”

which sounds like “make up your minds. Do you want to control your sex lives with contraception, or do you want communion?”

“The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a ‘false compassion,’ that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who ‘sees,’ ‘has compassion,’ approaches and provides concrete help.”

No, you don’t get to control when you have kids or how many, nor do you get any say in when you die. Sorry not sorry.

“If someone says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.

Not a big fan of the US First Amendment, or of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I’m guessing.

“If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

Sure, we love gays! At least, as long as they repent and promise to stop acting gay in public.

“Gender ideology is demonic!”

On the issue of women priests:

“The Church has spoken and said: ‘No.’ John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That door is closed.”

As I said, this is BillDo we’re talking about, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he were spinning some or all of these quotations to fit his right-wing agenda. But I don’t think it’s all him. I’m pretty sure that while Francis may seem progressive in the Vatican, elsewhere that just makes him slightly less reactionary than other cardinals.

Even the Faithful Have Given Up on Faith

Over at The Way of the Mister, Brian Dalton makes an important point:

I’ve often heard the argument that “I don’t have enough faith to believe in {evolution/the Big Bang/atheism}”, and maybe you have, too. Hell, it’s the title of a book by apologist heavyweights Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

“I don’t have enough faith” is usually presented with a good dose of sneering at the fools who believe in such obvious fairy tales as evolution. But saying “I don’t have enough faith to believe in something so utterly ridiculous” implies that faith is something that you use to believe utterly ridiculous things, something you resort to when you don’t have evidence or reason.

I expect someone will say “Ah, but we’re talking about two different types of faith, here. One is a vulgar, colloquial form, closer to naïveté or even gullibility, than to the pure, sublime sort of faith that allows contact with God.” I don’t buy it, because it’s always presented as “I don’t have enough faith”, never “I don’t have the kind of faith that would allow me to believe in evolution”.

Consider, too, that religious institutions — high, low, and everything in between — love the idea of physical evidence for religious claims, especially things like miraculous cures of diseases, but also glossolalia (speaking in tongues), demonic possession, and other forms of supernatural intervention. No one ever seems to exalt those of Jesus’ disciples who, unlike Thomas, didn’t ask for evidence: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

People pay faith a lot of lip service, but that’s all it is. In every area where we can see the results, we’ve figured out that evidence and reason are far more reliable pathways to knowledge than faith is. If you were considering lending me money, and I suggested that you take it on faith that I’ll repay the loan, rather than running a credit check, you’d laugh me out of the room.

Faith has failed. It failed a long time ago. It’s just that people don’t want to admit it, because it allows them to believe in gods and miracles.

The Vatican Needs to Make Up Its Damn Mind

Washington Post story, two days ago:
Vatican fires gay priest on eve of synod

Washington Post story, today:
Pope urges prejudices be put aside at start of family synod

Homophobic Pope Distances Self From Homophobic Clerk

The Associated press reports that

The Vatican on Friday distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, saying she was one of dozens of people the pope greeted in the U.S. and that their meeting “should not be considered a form of support of her position.”

The article goes on to quote a spokesman (I almost wrote spokesperson, but then remembered that this is the Vatican we’re talking about) that the pope meets with lots of people, and doesn’t necessarily agree with — or even know anything about — all of them.

So basically, Kim Davis is like a stereotypical teenage girl who’s over the moon because One Direction waved to her from on stage at a concert, and she imagines herself BFF with the band. Meanwhile, Harry Styles is all, “Who?”.

I do note that Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman (remember? I was talking about the pope a moment ago) is quoted as saying,

“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Lombardi said.

The emphasized weasel words allow the Vatican to play it both ways: they’ll be able to either agree or disagree with her in the future, depending what’s more convenient at the time, because hey, Davis’s position is complex.

And by the way, I’d like to welcome our conservative friends: for years, pope Francis has been quoted by the media as saying some reasonably liberal and forward-thinking things (“Who am I to judge [gay people]?”), and then his people come back a day or two later and explain that ha ha no, he didn’t actually mean it (“no, gays can’t marry or form relationships or have sex, but if they want to come to church and confess that they’re sinners, we welcome them.”). This time, he just did it with a conservative cause instead of a liberal one.