Map of the day

From a series at Vox showcasing the water problems in the American west.  It just kills me that everybody has way higher water usage out there because they are trying to grow nice green laws in the desert.  Ummm, grass is not meant to grow in the desert.  When I lived in Lubbock, Texas, (not a true desert, but semi-arid) otherwise sane people seemed not to be when it came to their need to match all their neighbor’s nice green laws.  As in Cary, NC, the Greene home was characterized by dead grass (the problem here is way too much shade) as I was not willing to waste a bunch of water on it.  Anyway, here’s the map:

(The Hamilton Project)

Photo of the day

From a recent Telegraph pictures of the day gallery:

A rutting stag looms out of the mist during the sunrise in Richmond Park, London

A rutting stag looms out of the mist during the sunrise in Richmond Park, LondonPicture: Adrian Moysey/News Dog Media

Why I medicate my kids with medicines that don’t work

Placebo effect!  And a topic I’ve hit many times.  Great summary on the power of the placebo effect by Austin Frakt in the Upshot.  I love how he starts be telling his story of being in the ER and telling his nurse to just tell him she’s putting an opiate in his IV whether it is true or not.  Plus more good stuff:

In comparing a treatment with a placebo, we should also keep in mind that the placebo is not the same thing as the absence of treatment. In research settings, placebos are specifically designed to mimic treatment without the hypothesized few “active” ingredients or procedural steps. They still include a lot of components of care. (Another form of clinical trial is to compare one treatment with another or with “usual” care — the care that would be given in the absence of the treatment being tested.)…

The question addressed by placebo-controlled trials is whether the second effect — the placebo effect that operates only through belief — is the only effect of a given treatment. Does the “active” part of the treatment do anything more? The possibility that placebos cure is therefore acknowledged and built into placebo-controlled study designs…

Taking two placebo pills (e.g., sugar pills) relieves more pain or provides a greater stimulative effect or is more sedating or heals stomach ulcers more quickly (depending on the study) than taking just one…

If placebos were always the same as no treatment, then the following findings, most of which are summarized by the emergency physician David Newman in his book “Hippocrates’ Shadow,” would be hard to explain:

■ Placebo pills with a brand name printed on them are more effective at pain reduction than the same pills without the brand name.

■ Placebo pills with a brand name printed on them are more effective at pain reduction than the same pills without the brand name.

■ Patients who faithfully take placebo medication for cholesterol reduction survive longer than those who skip doses.

■ Though sham acupuncture reduces migraines as much as real acupuncture, both reduce migraines far more than no treatment at all.

■ Measurements of increased endorphins — our bodies’ natural pain relievers — have been associated with placebos’ ability to reduce pain.

Anyway, with my youngest son, Evan, suffering from quite the cough this week it got me to thinking about how I always give him cough syrup even though I know the evidence is clear that it is no better than a placebo.  The thing is, no better than a placebo does not mean no better than no treatment.  I don’t know if anybody has every looked at the placebo effect in kids in adults, but my intuition suggests it is even stronger in kids (as anybody who has ever kissed a boo-boo knows).  Thus, I will keep giving my kids medicine that might not actually work because there’s a lot to be said for the placebo effect and I don’t actually have any sugar pills.

Anatomy of a smear

So, I have a friend/former student who is currently in a very tight race for the NC Senate.  One of the few competitive races in the whole state (thank you, gerrymandering).  Anyway, Sarah is pure awesomeness.  She’s super smart, super hard-working, friendly, great family, etc., in short everything you could want in a representative and political candidate.  Her work career has been spent in raising money for worthy institutions, e.g., Duke Children’s hospital, an animal shelter, and a center for mentally disabled adults and children.

So, when I talked to Sarah and she told me her opponent was running a negative ad against her, I genuinely thought, “but what?!”  I figured maybe generic opposition to a liberal Democrat, i.e., “Sarah Crawford wants to raise your taxes!” etc.  But now, her opponent has an ad that is pure smear.

Sarah’s flaw is that she is married to a “influential special interest lobbyist.”  Oh how I’m sure Dan wishes he was influential.  When you are a lobbyist for an environmental coalition you are not exactly influential with the NC legislature (and, of course, every interest is a “special interest.”  Well, what about the “millions” in out of state money for Sarah,  Well, an environmental group did spend over a million in NC, but Sarah’s campaign was just one of many targeted races.  Hardly millions of out-of-state money on her race.  As for the tangled web of special interest money leading back to Dan?  These were environmental ads and Dan is an environmental lobbyist.  But he’s not stupid and was therefore beyond scrupulous in avoiding any impropriety (he actually told my Interest Group class all about it last Spring).

And then the one that really got me was “and now an Election (forward?  not clear to me) investigation.”  Oh, so sleazy as this clearly implies that Sarah is the target of an investigation.  She’s not of course.  A group that supports Sarah is the subject of a complaint (the legitimacy of which I truly have no idea) that was filed the day before this ad hit the air.

There is not even the slightest hint of Sarah’s campaign actually doing anything wrong in this “investigation.”  I get it, this is politics, not beanbag toss, and I am sure I have seen worse.  But it really is pretty amazing to see firsthand the integrity impugned of one of the best people you know.  It’s no wonder nobody wants to run for political office.  Sarah will hit back with on her opponent, but it will be based on the reality of his very real votes that hurt the people of NC, not false and sleazy innuendo.


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