Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Art of Not Reading -- Arthur Schopenhauer



“The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.”




Monday, August 31, 2015

Oliver Sacks, RIP

Oliver Sacks, Greenwich Village, 1960



Telegraph (UK)


"Oliver Wolf Sacks was born on July 9 1933 into a Jewish family in Cricklewood, north London, the youngest of four sons of a pair of wealthy physicians. He had an idyllic early childhood, waited on by an army of servants and spoilt by a vast extended family of remarkable intellectual brilliance.
 ...
This idyll was rudely shattered by the outbreak of war when young Oliver, then aged six, and his elder brother Michael, were evacuated to a Midlands boarding school called Braefield. There they were subjected to a regime of unrelenting cruelty by a headmaster who was “unhinged by his own power ... vicious and sadistic”.
The experience drove his brother mad and robbed Oliver of his faith in God. He was left with a host of phobias. His response was to take refuge in the unthreatening and impersonal world of science and mathematics. One of his aunts, a botanist, took him to Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum, where dioramas of archaic plants and ferns, including the Jurassic cycads, became his “dreamscapes”, evoking “an Eden of the remote past.”
But what really caught his imagination was chemistry. It was one of his mother’s 17 siblings, his uncle Dave (or “Uncle Tungsten”) the owner of a light bulb factory in Farringdon, who opened his nephew’s eyes to the magical world of atoms and molecules. Back home, young Oliver was given a free rein by his busy parents to conduct his own experiments.
In a makeshift laboratory in the family home, he proceeded to produce clouds of noxious-smelling chemicals, making “volcanoes” with ammonium dichromate, setting fire to the garden and, on one occasion, burning off his brother’s eyebrows. At St Paul’s School, he shared his passion with Jonathan Miller who accompanied him when on one memorable occasion he dropped 3lb of pure sodium into Highgate Ponds.
Sacks read deeply, delving into 18th and 19th-century texts to understand how the sciences had evolved. His great heroes were Humphry Davy, Marie Curie and Dmitri Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table – a chemical chart which gave the young Sacks intimations of “the transcendent power of the human mind”.
But Oliver’s mother, an obstetrician-gynaecologist, was determined that her son should follow her into the medical profession and took pains to ensure that he became acquainted with anatomy by bringing home malformed foetuses for him to dissect, an exercise that filled him with revulsion. “She never perceived, I think, how distressed I became,” Sacks wrote, “and probably imagined that I was as enthusiastic as she was.”
Later, when he was 14, she arranged his first experience of dissecting a human corpse – the body of a girl . “Delight in understanding and appreciating anatomy was lost, for the most part, in the horror of the dissection,” he recalled. “I did not know if I would ever be able to love the warm, quick bodies of the living after facing, smelling and cutting the formalin-reeking corpse of a girl my own age.”  
Yet, Sacks did become interested, and went on to take degrees in Physiology, Biology and Medicine at Queen’s College, Oxford, and at Middlesex Hospital Medical School, later taking junior medical posts at the hospital.
By this time he had become fascinated by neurology and in 1960 moved to Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco to study the subject. In California he rode with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and won a state championship for weightlifting. "








Sunday, August 30, 2015

my sweet old etcetera -- e.e. cummings (1926)




my sweet old etcetera

aunt lucy during the recent



war could and what

is more did tell you just

what everybody was fighting



for,

my sister



isabel created hundreds

(and

hundreds)of socks not to

mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers



etcetera wristers etcetera, my

mother hoped that



i would die etcetera

bravely of course my father used

to become hoarse talking about how it was

a privilege and if only he

could meanwhile my



self etcetera lay quietly

in the deep mud et



cetera

(dreaming,

et

  cetera, of

Your smile

eyes knees and of your Etcetera)




Saturday, August 29, 2015

Comedy Tonight! -- Stephen Sondheim




[PSEUDOLUS]
Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!
Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!
Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!
Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!
Something convulsive,
Something repulsive,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Something aesthetic,
Something frenetic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Nothing with gods, nothing with fate;
Weighty affairs will just have to wait!
Nothing that's formal,
Nothing that's normal,
No recitations to recite;
Open up the curtain:
Comedy Tonight!
Something erratic,
Something dramatic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Frenzy and frolic,
Strictly symbolic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
[ENTIRE COMPANY]
Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everybody:
Comedy tonight!
Something that's gaudy,
Something that's bawdy--
[PSEUDOLUS]
Something for everybawdy!
[ENTIRE COMPANY]
Comedy tonight!
[MILES GLORIOSUS]
Nothing that's grim.
[DOMINA]
Nothing that's Greek.
[PSEUDOLUS]
[Indicating DOMINA:]
She plays Medea later this week.
[WOMEN]
Stunning surprises!
[MEN]
Cunning disguises!
[ALL]
Hundreds of actors out of sight!
[ERRONIUS]
Pantaloons and tunics!
[SENEX]
Courtesans and eunuchs!
[HERO]
Funerals and chases!
[LYCUS]
Baritones and basses!
[PHILIA]
Panderers!
[HERO]
Philanderers!
[HYSTERIUM]
Cupidity!
[MILES]
Timidity!
[LYCUS]
Mistakes!
[ERRONIUS]
Fakes!
[DOMINA]
Rhymes!
[PHILIA]
Crimes!
[PSEUDOLUS]
Tumblers!
Grumblers!
Bumblers!
Fumblers!
[ALL]
No royal curse, no Trojan horse,
And a happy ending, of course!
Goodness and badness,
Panic is madness--
This time it all turns out all right!
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!






Friday, August 28, 2015

A Simple Fix for Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is even a problem in France.


WSJ
"Offenders in 24/7 Sobriety can drive all they want to, but they are under a court order not to drink. Every morning and evening, for an average of five months, they visit a police facility to take a breathalyzer test. Unlike most consequences imposed by the criminal justice system, the penalties for noncompliance are swift, certain and modest. Drinking results in mandatory arrest, with a night or two in jail as the typical penalty.
The results have been stunning. Since 2005, the program has administered more than 7 million breathalyzer tests to over 30,000 participants. Offenders have both showed up and passed the test at a rate of over 99%. 
Inevitably, a few offenders try to beat the program by drinking just after a successful breathalyzer test, with the idea of not drinking too much before their next one. But people with repeat convictions for driving under the influence don’t excel at limiting themselves to “just a few beers.” They quickly learn that the best way to succeed in 24/7 Sobriety is to avoid alcohol entirely. 
The benefits of the program aren’t just confined to road safety. In a 2013 paper in the American Journal of Public Health, Beau Kilmer of the Rand Corp. and colleagues found that counties using 24/7 Sobriety experienced not only a 12% drop in repeat drunken-driving arrests but also a 9% drop in domestic-violence arrests. Unlike interventions that only constrain drinking while driving, the removal of alcohol from an offender’s life also reduces the incidence of other alcohol-related crimes. 
Why do repeat offenders change their behavior in response to relatively modest incentives? Stephen Higgins of the University of Vermont addressed this question in his pioneering work on the treatment of drug addiction. In a widely cited 1991 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry, he showed that, although his patients continued using cocaine in the face of great harm to their families, livelihoods and physical health, they could still be induced to refrain from it when promised a small reward, like $10 for a negative urine test. The reward was relatively trivial, but it was unlike other potential consequences because it was both certain and immediate.
It turns out that people with drug and alcohol problems are just like the rest of us. Their behavior is affected much more by what is definitely going to happen today than by what might or might not happen far in the future, even if the potential future consequences are more serious."








Thursday, August 27, 2015

More on creepy Army doctor John Henry Hagmann

Sanctioned: A Virginia state board revoked the license of Dr. John Hagmann (R), pictured here around 2010 teaching a course in treating battlefield trauma, citing 'abhorrent and abnormal' practices 
Yeah, that's the same guy from the photos in yesterday's post. He really let himself go.


Business Insider/Reuters
"The president of the U.S. military’s medical college said he took swift action after learning in 2013 that John Henry Hagmann, a former Army doctor teaching there, was injecting students with hypnotic drugs, inducing shock by withdrawing their blood, and performing rectal exams in class.
Hagmann was escorted off the Uniformed Services University campus in Maryland, and the college quickly offered students blood tests to determine if they had been exposed to any diseases, school President Charles Rice said.
...
But records reviewed by Reuters, including the university’s own investigation, show that school officials had known of Hagmann’s teaching methods for more than 20 years. The records also show that three faculty members sat in on Hagmann’s course in 2012 but did not alert their superiors, despite witnessing practices that the school has since banned. One former dean even pushed to have Hagmann court-martialed in 1993 over similar allegations, records show.
...
The Virginia medical board concluded in June that Hagmann, 59, exploited students he trained in 2012 and 2013 at sessions in Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Great Britain. Some of those students testified that Hagmann performed penile nerve blocks and instructed them to insert catheters into one another’s genitals.
“The evidence is so overwhelming and so bizarre as to almost shock the conscience of a prosecutor who’s been doing this for 26 years,” Assistant Attorney General Frank Pedrotty told the board in June.
Hagmann's courses in treating battlefield wounds were popular with the U.S. government, however. Since 2007, his company, Deployment Medicine International, has received at least $10.5 million in federal contracts from government agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Special Forces.
... 
At the time, the medical school did not have a policy against instructors using students as test subjects. Rice said the school has since created one.
Thus, among Hagmann’s legacies, is an asterisk in the student handbook with this reminder: “School of Medicine policy prohibits instructors or medical students from requesting medical students from serving as ‘patients’ for intrusive examinations or procedures, such as a rectal or genitourinary exam.” 
Rice, who served as trauma surgeon to President George H.W. Bush, said the Hagmann matter is the most bizarre situation he has known in 40 years of government service
“He shouldn’t be a physician,” Rice said. “He lost his compass somewhere.”"



 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Former Army doctor accused of all sorts of weird stuff

Army doctor suspended over bizarre, drug-fueled penis procedures
Who says you can't judge a man by his creepy moustache?










"Since retiring from the U.S. Army in 2000, Dr. John Henry Hagmann has helped train thousands of soldiers and medical personnel in how to treat battlefield wounds. His company, Deployment Medicine International, has received more than $10.5 million in business from the federal government.
The taxpayer-funded training has long troubled animal rights activists, who contend that Hagmann’s use of live, wounded pigs to simulate combat injuries is unnecessarily cruel.
But an investigation by Virginia medical authorities alleges that pigs weren’t the doctor’s only training subjects.
During instructional sessions in 2012 and 2013 for military personnel, Hagmann gave trainees drugs and liquor, and directed them to perform macabre medical procedures on one another, according to a report issued by the Virginia Board of Medicine, the state agency that oversees the conduct of doctors.
Hagmann, 59, is accused of inappropriately providing at least 10 students with the hypnotic drug ketamine. The report alleges Hagmann told students to insert catheters into the genitals of other trainees and that two intoxicated student were subjected to penile nerve block procedures. Hagmann also is accused of conducting “shock labs,” a process in which he withdrew blood from the students, monitored them for shock, and then transfused the blood back into their systems.
The report alleges that Hagmann also “exploited, for personal gain and sexual gratification,” two participants who attended a July 2013 course at his Virginia farm.
...
In one case detailed by investigators, Virginia authorities allege that Hagmann boasted to a student “about his proficiency with rectal exams” and took the student to a warehouse on his property. There, the report claims, the two “continued to consume beer” and Hagmann asked the student “about the effect (the student’s) uncircumcised penis had on masturbation and sexual intercourse.” The student told investigators “that he was inebriated and felt that he could not refuse Dr. Hagmann’s request … to examine, manipulate and photograph his penis.” 
In his statement to Reuters, Hagmann connected his comments on circumcision to his live-tissue trauma training course this way: “The debate on the value and impact of circumcision is a current medical and social issue. The historical link between circumcision and masturbation is a fact dating since Victorian England and is still a current topic subject to scientific research.”
The Virginia medical board report also says Hagmann conducted what board investigators described as “ketamine labs,” “alcohol labs” and “cognition labs.” The labs, officials wrote, “involved the dosing of ketamine and consumption of alcohol, at times in combination or in quick succession, so that he (Hagmann) could assess the effects of these substances on their cognition.”

During a July 2013 course in North Carolina, authorities say, participants were provided eight shots of rum in 10 minutes. About an hour later, they were allegedly injected with ketamine. Officials allege that one intoxicated participant received a penile nerve block, a type of anesthesia. When other students stepped in to prevent a second intoxicated student from receiving the procedure, the report says, Hagmann volunteered himself, and students performed a penile nerve block on him.
“I have been working in trauma centers for 30 years and I have never done a penile nerve block,” said Dr. Mark Brown, an emergency room physician in Lancaster, California. “And why would you ever mix alcohol and drugs? It’s very puzzling.”