Friday, August 6, 2010

New Woo in Sports - Power Balance

Recently,  my wife and I completed the Elvis is Alive 5K run as part of her training for the Paris Marathon.  At the finish line were the usual collection of fitness and nutrition products to sample and gyms offering memberships.  While I was sampling a post-race drink, I noticed a product demonstration at the adjoining tent.

The Power Balance rep pulled someone from the crowd and had them hold their arms out in a cross position.  He pushed down on the subjects right arm until it failed.  He then placed a Power Balance bracelet on the runner's left shoulder and repeated the test on the right arm.  He had to struggle to push the arm down this time.  AMAZING!

He then explained that the hologram in the bracelet "balanced the life energy that flows through all living things" making the runner stronger.  The bracelet also "dispelled negative energy that builds up during a workout."  He repeated the test on another runner, this time putting the Bracelet on top of her hat, informing us that the holograms didn't need to be in contact with the skin to work.  It only has to be within your energy field.  The subjects being test didn't seem to buying what he was trying to sell them.

I snickered.  My wife saw what was coming and took off.  "J", the rep eagerly turned to me to remove my skepticism with his sales pitch.  He again stated that we all have a life energy, "Chi" flowing through us.  This energy can be  blocked by injury and disease.  "This product is based on Ancient Eastern Philosophy" he explained,  sort of like acupressure but with a high tech twist.  The hologram in the silicone bracelet is embedded with information (burned in like a CD or DVD) that resonates with your natural energy.

I had a few questions.  He said he was happy to answer them all.

Q.  How was this developed?  Who found out you could use a hologram to balance your energy?
A.  It was developed by athletes.

Q.  No one has ever been able to detect/measure "Chi" in a scientific lab.  How did Power Balance find the right frequency to embed into the hologram?
A.  I don't know.

Q.  Was scientific research done to test the efficacy of the hologram?
A.  Yes, but we feel that personal testimonials are better evidence that the product works.  Just ask anyone who wears one.

Q.  Who did the research and what were the results?
A.  We used research from universities including Brown, Yale.  To tell you the truth, the test were inconclusive.

He then asked me to buy a bracelet and try it for two weeks.  If I didn't like it I would get a refund.  I declined, saying that I was already prejudiced against the product and I would dismiss any perceived effect.  J decided to give one to me free and asked if my wife would wear it for 14 days.  I said I would ask her to do so  (she declined).

I think J and the other people selling this product are naive and only looking to make some money.  He was friendly and enthusiastic but not very well informed.

You can check out the website at  I couldn't find one piece of information about how this product works (other then the vague ancient eastern philosophy angle) or who invented it.

In my PERSONAL OPINION, this is a ineffective product being marketed to the dubious public.  If the people at Power Balance have a problem with that statement, they can show me the research that proves their claims.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vaccine Gestapo

I offer up this video with no comment.
Vaccine Gestapo Live

Andrew Wakefield Speaks at Anti-Vax in Chicago

Here is Andrew Wakefield's speech at yesterday's anti-vax rally in Chicago.  He played the Martyr role very well.  Oh... and he just happens to have a book for sale.

Wakefield Presentaion at anti-vax rally in Chicago

I attended the rally with several other area skeptics and will be posting my thoughts and additional video later today.

You can read Jamie's account over at The Friendly Atheist.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Support a National Month of Prayer.

A friend of mine recently linked to a page on Facebook promoting the defense of the National Day of Prayer (NDP). The page was created in response to a Wisconsin judges ruling that the NDP violates the laws our founding fathers made when they formed this county we call the USA. Now, what did they say? Oh yes it's right here in the FIRST Amendment;

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I think we can all agree on one thing. That statement is pretty open to interpretation. God-fearing folks see it as an obvious endorsement of religion and the God-less interpret it as "the Government should mind it's own business and not dabble in anything religious."

As a godless, spineless liberal, I tend to lean to the second interruption. But, in an effort to bring a lasting peace to this nation, I propose that we not only have day of prayer but an entire month of it.

I truly believe that we as a nation we would benefit from praying together in classrooms, boardrooms and courtrooms.

Of course not everyone will like this.

Why? Because my month of prayer would require everyone to learn and participate in the beliefs of ALL religions.

Week Zero would be spent learning the prayers of the four major faiths (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu).
On the first week, everyone would be called to Muslim prayer and recite Salah. Non Muslims will only need to pray once in the morning. Practicing Muslims will of course continue to pray at the prescribed times.
The second week would change to Hindu, the third Jewish, and the final week Christian.

Since this nation is predominately Christian, regional differences will have to taken into account. I think we should eliminate Snake handling as an option but you may disagree. The use of the King James version of the Bible with be strictly enforced! ;-)

A 30 minute open discussion will follow the prayer. Comparisons will be made to other religions.

What will the result of this Month of Prayer have?
At best (for me) it will show this country that the humans on planet Earth are very diverse in their beliefs and a close examination of those beliefs will show many similarities as well as allowing people the opportunity to question their own belief system.
At worst (and most likely scenario unfortunately) it will cause a larger rift between people who are unwilling to acknowledge the views and beliefs of others.

What are your thoughts? What am I missing (besides the smaller, less followed beliefs)? What did I get TOTALLY wrong?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Powerless to Powerful

It's the little steps you take that allow you to cover a great distance. It's the small interactions that can make a big difference in a life.

Long story short... I was producing a meeting for a large food corporation. As a guest speaker, they invited the president of a sister company to talk and take questions from the audience. let's call him Al.
He is an engaging speaker and spoke very personally about the recent passing of his mother. He also spoke of the joy of seeing his daughter dance in competitions. Because my job requires me to sit in these corporate gatherings, I've seen a thousand speakers and usually tune out because they all say the same things. "Shifting the paradigm to think outside the box will allow our team to add value to shareholders!" I was paying attention to him.
But then it turned south and the winds were sucked out of my sail (recently filled by SkepChiCamp). He started talking about Quantum Mechanics and this amazing video he had seen.

What he had just seen was a video about science called What the Bleep Do We Know. I won't link to it. For me, that would be like someone at the Holocaust Museum linking to a Neo-Nazi site. The video is actually well produced and "stars" Marlee Matlin. What it doesn't have is one ounce of scientific credibility.

Short story long, he started talking about people being able to walk thru walls because "atoms are mostly empty space" and "You can change the molecular structure of water by thinking positive or negative thoughts near it." Seriously.

All I could do is sit there quietly as he talked on and on about this nonsense. I was waiting for him to bring up The Secret. I wanted to stand up and yell to the crowd "He's feeding you bullshit! Soylent Green is made from people!!!"

I felt absolutely weak and helpless. Until I decided not to be weak and helpless.

When "Al" finished, he sat at a table next to mine. It was time for a break and I knew he had to leave quickly to catch a plane. My plan was to quickly introduce myself, let him know I enjoyed MOST of his talk but that I had an issue with the last part. I would ask if I could send him an email with some links that may offer a rebuttal to the video he had seen. The worst thing that could happen is he takes offense and has me shot.

As the break was called, I walked up to him and was immediately cut off by someone else who wanted to talk business. fuck. For a moment I thought of turning around and not pursuing it but I shook off that idea quickly. Finally, they finished and he acknowledged my presence.

I introduced myself, we shook hands and I followed my game plan to the letter. And then something weird happened. He was interested and started asking questions. He admitted that he thought most of the video was crap. He wanted to know what parts of the video I had an issue with (ALL OF IT!) . We talked for several minutes before he excused himself to catch his flight but gave me his business card so I could send him the debunking links.


I spent the rest of the day in the boring meeting but I had a big smile on my face knowing I was able to shine my little flashlight into the dark abyss and help someone climb out.

So anyway, that's what happened.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Makes Me Happy? - Skepchicamp 2010

Last Saturday, March 6th, I was proud to be part of the greatest gathering of brains I've ever experienced.
Skepchicamp 2010, created by Chicago Skepchick Elyse with the help of a great planning committee, was a day-long gathering of skeptics and critical thinkers.
Held at the Brehon Pub in Chicago, the event was a whirlwind of talks ranging from the debunking of a water-softening product to the science behind martial arts demonstrations.
The day started and ended with panel discussions featuring several Skepchicks, including Rebecca Watson skyping in from London. We also heard from Dr. Jen, who talked to us about how she communicates with her patients while promoting science-based medicine. Several teachers spoke about education and getting kids interested in science, and Don spoke of his experiences with a martial arts cult called Warrior School. Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, gave a great talk on being attacked by the right wing.
As the afternoon continued, we learned about opera myths and superstitions, pet food regulation (or the lack thereof), that there is a large UFO base in Bolingbrook, and Jamie told us we're all stupid.
During breaks, the Tense Kids rocked us with their smart, witty and catchy music. They even played a Mountain Goats cover just for me! I've had their latest CD "Oh, Idaho" on constant repeat on my iPod for the last three days. Check them out!
In the back, books and magazines were available and "Surly" Amy sold her jewelry.
But as much as I enjoyed the talks, the best thing about the day was meeting and interacting with 80 like-minded folks who have a passion for skepticism and critical thinking. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm not much of a social butterfly, but in this environment I was bouncing from person to person, trying to soak up knowledge from people way smarter then I. I was more than happy to be the dumbest guy in the room. I think everyone there felt the same way I did.
This is the true beauty of Skepchicamp.

Elyse, next year "you're gonna need a bigger boat" -- and for this, I congratulate you!

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