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February 03, 2006

Grumpy and ranting

I'm extremely grumpy this morning, largely because I've been losing at poker. I won't go on and on about poker, because that's very boring for anyone that doesn't play, but rest assured that I have been vastly, hugely unlucky over the last week or so. And before you say, I know everyone always says 'I was really unlucky' to cover bad play, but I have the records to prove it - getting all my money in when I'm 4:1 favourite, and losing to the 20% shot, time and again. I reckon I've lost 17 out of 21 times when the chances were in my favour, often heavily so. My bankroll has gone from healthy to nearly disappeared, and I'm grumpy.

Diary stuff isn't interesting: went to my meetings yesterday, they were fine, I've got loads of work I should be doing but can't motivate myself, whatever.

Best thing when feeling grumpy is to have a rant: watched that programme with the fragrant Kathy Sykes (Professor Kathy to you) examining alternative healing from a rigorously scientific viewpoint. This week, faith healing, spiritualism, that sort of thing.

She made a very convincing case for the efficacy of placebos. There is loads of experimental research into this, including a surgeon in the states who treats patients with chronically arthritic knees. Half his patients have a very believable fake operation, which includes being anaesthetised and opened up but nothing else, and the other half have the full standard procedure. Afterwards, he asks them all whether they think they were operated on or not - and all of them thought they were. Apparently just the expectation of some sort of treatment is enough for the brain to release dopamines or something, which in themselves do cause wellbeing and confidence. And they do genuinely feel better and in less pain.

One experiment which made me laugh was debunking a spiritual healer. An academic hired an actor to learn to mimic exactly the spiritual healer's actions and words, and then treat patients just as he did. You know, arranging crystals and laying on hands and such. And afterwards, the spiritual healer's patients reported slightly less improvement than the actor's. Hahahaha. And the clincher? Most of the actor's 'patients' couldn't believe that they hadn't been spiritually healed in some way, such was their perceived improvement, so they rationalised it ... and decided that the actor must have hereto undiscovered spiritual healing powers.

For fuck's sake.

Kathy, probably wisely, declined to comment.

OK. Feel a bit better now. [/soapbox ]. Move on.

oh yeah, nearly forgot. 87 days.

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