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Archive August 2008
Friday 29 August 2008
I've been pondering and researching medical things for various reasons recently, and the main thing I've noticed about mainstream western medicine is that it has a horrible tendency to treat (and diagnose) symptoms rather than causes. Some specific examples I've seen first hand include:
  • scabies (a parasite) diagnosed as dermatitis (itchy skin, symptom present), prescribed hydrocortisone (anti-inflammatory steroid). To stop the itching of skin. Total failure. (Successful self-treatment, an anti-scabies pesticide and a thorough hot washing of clothes, sheets and towels.)
  • poison ivy (an inflammatory oil) diagnosed as "an infection" (swelling, symptom present), prescribed antibiotics. To fix the swelling. Total failure, poison ivy oil still present in boots, re-applied causing recurring rash and potentially re-infection. (Successful self-treatment, a substance to break down the poison ivy oil, applied to the boots which had absorbed the oil, and to the swollen feet.)
  • probable copper deficiency (hard to tell for sure) diagnosed as anemia (symptom present), prescribed iron supplements to fix the anemia. Total failure, blood iron levels unaffected for several weeks. (Successful self-treatment, eating blackstrap molasses, containing all the minerals required to get the body to deal with iron as it should.)
This is by no means an exhaustive list; recurring severe caffeine-withdrawal headaches treated with painkillers that contain caffeine is another good one, and most skin conditions being treated with someone applied to the skin. And the successful self-treatments aren't very helpful in that they each require a successful self-diagnosis first, which is generally a tricky thing to pull off. But, obviously, by example, worth a try rather than just relying on the doctors.

Now, I'm not saying that chinese or alternative medicines are the best things in the world, or a flawless solution, but one thing they are better at is trying to focus on causes rather than symptoms. It's easier to make a diagnostic mistake at this point, obviously (it's very easy to diagnose a symptom! "Hey doctor, I have itchy skin." "Itchy skin you say? That sounds like the disease we call "itchy skin" in Latin!"), but assuming you do manage to make a good cause-diagnosis you're going to have a much better chance at curing something by attacking the cause not the effect.

Seemingly tangentially, the other day I was talking to someone about political things; they are a staunch right-wing-leaning Libertarian type, someone who thinks in single-step consequences and no further, with the common key argument of "don't punish the hard-working rich by taking more of their money, that's not fair." I'm sure we can all pick at least three gaping holes in that argument, but that's not why I'm posting. The thing is, it struck me that the reason this position is increasingly popular is because the government in the US is getting more bloated, inefficient and greedy. And the knee-jerk reaction, the apparent way to treat that symptom is to vote in a "small government" government, someone who will cut taxes and de-bloat things.

But that won't work. That's just like applying hydrocortisone to scabies or to poison ivy. You'll get ten minutes of itch-relief and then it will come back worse than before because you've just made the area more sensitive.

So then I got to thinking, what's the cause? And the furthest back I could figure it, the cause seemed to me to be overpopulation. And then it struck me, China's been trying to reduce population for a while now. Just like Chinese medicine, they've done their best to find a cause for societal struggle, and then to try to find a cure for the cause, not a cure for the struggle. Sure enough it hasn't done a great job yet, but when you treat the cause the results are slower but longer-lasting than when you treat the symptom. But watch over the next fifty years, as the US flares up with angry itches and infects other countries with its metaphorical scabies, and China settles down and goes back to a comfortable night's sleep. (And of course, China's not just treating 'overpopulation' as a cause, they go one step further - birth-rate is the cause of overpopulation. Which is why it'll take 50 years to cascade down to curing overpopulation, then maybe another 50 years for that to cascade down and cure economic woes.) [02:51] [3 comments]


Tuesday 26 August 2008
For people who use Firefox 3 and are annoyed by the update to the address bar as I just was, I suggest the oldbar extension and toggling browser.urlbar.matchOnlyTyped in about:config, to return it to the previous sane behaviour. [12:06] [2 comments]


Sunday 10 August 2008
Grr. I was being pleased with Sky the other day, for not yet having tried to lie to me about anything, while British Telecom were sending me ads for their 'wireless internet' saying it's 8 pounds per month*. Where * means "for the first three months, thereafter much more, and also that doesn't include the mandatory hardware, whose cost actually makes the first three months effectively more expensive even than the later ones", and "wireless internet" means "ADSL and a wireless router" more accurately known as "internet over a wire, and a wireless router". For bonus annoy they were also touting the increased range of the new router, for "more reliable internet connection". Does anyone have their connection fail because their wireless drops, more often than because the ADSL drops? No. Because ADSL is crappy. So "just as unreliable internet connection, now costing more than we claim!" Admittedly that doesn't make for compelling advertising.

Anyway, two points here, one is that I just saw a Sky ad that said 5 pounds for the first month of some TV channels*, where * is 20 pounds a month thereafter, and a one-off joining fee of 15 pounds. So pretty much just like BT's lies. Grr. Even if it is lies about something I don't care about.

And the other point is, BT also annoys me with many other things, such as outrageous "not direct debit" fees, and bloody phoning me all the time to try to get me to move my calls back to them, enough so that I now want to make the effort to sever all contact with them; I gather it is now possible to go elsewhere for line rental. Has anyone reading done a line-rental-ectomy? If so, how was it? [03:04] [2 comments]