Lies and deception transcend the internet

It’s bad enough trusting the information you see on the internet, but when the last bastions of integrity begin to fall, where do you turn? The answer apparently is: Nowhere! Scientific peer-reviewed journals are [were] one such place, but it seems that even these have become corrupted. From The Scientist, an article about the sudden shift in editorial policy at one prestigious cardiology journal:

The Canadian scientific journal Experimental & Clinical Cardiology used to publish well-founded studies in the field and was widely read within the cardiology community. But since being sold and moved offshore in 2013, the journal is now publishing anything submitted along with a fee of $1,200, packaging spurious studies as serious scientific papers.

I wrote this in response to the question, why do people do this stuff?

A friend of mine is a journalist. He worked for many years for some major newspapers. He also worked early in his career for one of rags that post outrageous “news”, e.g., alien babies, man trapped in abandoned department store revolving door for 7 years, etc. He told me that the smartest people he ever met were at this phoney news outlet. In his words: “They got a real kick out of seeing how far they could bend the truth and still have people believe it”. I think that’s a good chunk of it today, plus the crazies and the worst of all, the true believers, i.e., those who are so clear-headed in their self-evident truth that they feel the end justifies the means.

Probably most important is: Money and influence. I realized this reading a FaceBook post on the purported benefits of Himalayan sea salt. At first it seemed a joke, but the passion of the believers in this stuff made me curious so I did a search, only to uncover hundreds of web sites selling the stuff, backed up by loads of spurious claims and “science” to back them up. It turns out there’s big money in stupid!

Salvelinus Namaycush

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Also known as Lake Trout, Salvelinus namaycush, is a freshwater char native to many lakes in northern North America. It is characterized by a notched tail and its white spots on a darker skin.

My son is an avid fisherman and came back last week with a number of these, each weighing a little over 2 lbs, excellent eating for two people. He also landed a 5lb. landlocked salmon which is sitting in my large freezer for the mandatory week, prior to being filleted and turned into Gravlax. Freezing is essential if one is going to eat the fish raw or cured, to kill off any parasites that may inhabit the flesh, a common occurrence with all fish these days. It is the same reason sushi bars must freeze all their fish prior to use. 

I stuffed the cavity with thick lemon slices, much fresh basil, and a good dollop of Irish butter inside and out, then wrapped the fish in parchment and baked it for 30 minutes at 350. Absolutely delicious, served with my home-made French fries and a Greek green bean stew topped with feta cheese.

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Bullshit busting

They say that you are what you do, but lately I’ve heard the expression, “You do what you are”. I like it, and feel that it is a far better way of explaining the mysterious occupations many of us pursue. This also goes a lot farther in explaining how I got into Psychology and to what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years, namely developing a process and methodology whereby people can freely disclose their most frank and intimate beliefs about companies, organizations, vendors, you name it.  We called this “product”, Psychmentation, and it has been enormously successful for our firm, used by some of the largest and most successful global organizations to better understand how their customers and employees perceive them.

You might say, I’m in the bullshit or delusion busting business, and times are good…never before has there been so much deception, lies, misinformation, disinformation, and just outright bullshit as in the current age of the internet. In fact, I think if the great historians, Will and Ariel Durant were still working on their Magnus Opus, ours might well be titled, The Age of Bullshit. I really do.

Rest assured however, that I am just as much as you frustrated by how tough it is to get at any semblance of truthful information about ANY topic. It seems that every proposition is immediately and aggressively blasted by competing interests, usually with selective information meant to support their opposing view. Before you know it, protesters are lying on the street blockading the embassy of some offending nation or the offices of some corporation. I’m not saying these actions are unjustified, I’m simply saying that they are usually premature and based on motivated reasoning rather than balanced information, analysis, and judgement.

So where do you go for sound, balanced, responsible, accountable analysis and facts? We used to rely on newspapers and magazines, but many of these have either starved to death or fallen victim to corruption in the unfettered rush to financial salvation in the age of “free” information, selling their souls to the Devil. I’ve got news for you…it’s never really free.

I’ve been looking for somewhere to start, reviewing the ownership profiles, Mission statements, and editorial policies of the various remaining “serious” journalistic outlets. I have decided to begin with the doggedly centrist, The Economist. I’ve been reading many of their articles and like the balanced view. I like the anonymity of each piece, crafted not for the celebrity and glorification of a single person, but reviewed and contributed to by many participants.

Many hands write The Economist, but it speaks with a collective voice. Leaders are discussed, often disputed, each week in meetings that are open to all members of the editorial staff. Journalists often co-operate on articles. And some articles are heavily edited. The main reason for anonymity, however, is a belief that what is written is more important than who writes it.

The About section is a fascinating glimpse into the history and evolution of one of the last remaining serious “newspapers”.  I’m also looking for equivalent Left and Right of centre vehicles to complete my efforts to cut through the shit and get to the Shineola! I ordered a hard-copy weekly subscription which also provides access to all digital versions. I’ll keep you posted on thoughts over the next year.

 

Cremo Cream revisited

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I did a review of Cremo Cream a number of years ago. It fared pretty well, although I found it more suitable to a cartridge razor than a DE, speculating at the time that the thickness of the cream might be clogging up the blade. I remember that, at the time, I loved the packaging and the coconut smell, but found the shave quality just OK. A few weeks ago, the makers of Cremo Cream asked me to do a follow up review, as the product line has changed and expanded. I was pleased to oblige with the usual warning that I could not be bought with a few samples….that would require substantial money in at least the 4 digit range (hey, this is shaving we’re talking about, not smartphones). They didn’t oblige.

The product line has grown nicely with just the right assortment; the makers of Cremo Cream have wisely avoided flooding it with all the crazy shit that high-end brands go for, like eye cream, firming lotion, toner, and a host of other stuff derived from the junk they sell women. Cremo is a straightforward, useful line with shave cream,  face wash, and moisturizer. I could see a good clean shampoo and body wash in their future, as valuable line extensions that would fit nicely for men’s grooming.

The main differences between the Men’s and Women’s lines is the scent of the shave cream; Bergamot for men and the original Coconut for women.  I liked the original scent and used both in this test series. The Bergamot is very pleasant, as is the Coconut. A nice choice to make on different days (or you could use both, one on each side of your face for a real zing!). The packaging is very distinctive, especially the shave cream, which uses a hefty tube with a good feel to it. Gone is the original red cross, replaced by a crown. Not sure why. Perhaps, the Red Cross complained of brand infringement, or simply having something that signifies a medical emergency might not be creating the best image for a shave cream! I wonder how long the crown will last….perhaps Rolex will complain of brand infringement.

I tend to classify shave products into one of two categories: Modern and Traditional. Modern products tend to be very slick, slippery, and non-drying on the one hand, but they also tend to leave a slight film on the skin on the other. Traditional products tend to be less slick and require a bit more work to get a good lather, but rinse off very cleanly, consistent with their soap base. I use and like both types of products, preferring the Modern when I’m using a cartridge razor; they seem very well mated to each other. I still prefer a good traditional shave soap or cream when using a DE or straight razor. The Modern products are also less drying, a result, I suspect, of the film that is left on the skin. Unlike many who take up traditional shaving, I am not dogmatic. Like good cuisine, I like it all….just because I like Chinese, doesn’t mean I can’t like Greek food equally well. It’s not an either/or situation.

Cremo Cream tends to the Modern, as do the Cremo Wash and the Moisturizer.

The Cremo Wash is effective, although it does leave a hint of film on the skin. On the other hand, it is not at all drying. I would likely appreciate the Cremo Wash more in the colder months where a Canadian Winter will turn your skin into parchment in no time. In the Summer, I prefer a soap as my pre-shave wash because the skin is already pretty oily from the heat and sweat. What I’ve been doing lately, which may sound crazy, is loading up my shaving brush with a good shave soap, and washing my whole face with the brush, prior to reapplying the soap for a shave; a little homemade exfoliation! Works great!

The Shave Cream produces a very nice lather, whether you use a brush or just your fingertips. It loves water and gets very slick. It produces an outstanding shave with a good cartridge razor (my own preference is the Harry’s line; the best of its ilk and close to the DE “feel”). I also used it with a DE and it was fine, although, IMHO, a classic soap or cream still play better with cold steel. I didn’t have the guts to try it with a straight, mainly because I’m still learning and am petrified most of the time. Did I already mention that I really like the scent of Cremo Cream?

The Moisturizer is effective, odourless, goes on easily and dries quickly,  It feels in between a balm and a cream, with a slight milky transparency. It’s a very good product, especially if you insist, as I do, on a scentless moisturizer. Clinique’s M-Lotion, my all-time favourite is just slightly better, but I also like variety and would see Cremo Moisturizer as an excellent alternative. Chinese vs. Greek, remember?

Overall, I was very impressed by the evolution of the Cremo line and its performance. It’s a modern line for the traditional shaver. Hey, that’s not a bad tag line. If you eschew the high-end modern stuff as expensive fluff directed at Metros, but want something that offers a taste of the modern while staying close to traditional values, Cremo is a great offering. Enjoy…I’m off to a good Chinese lunch, all this talk of food has made me hungry!

 

 

 

Asshats

I’ve promised to get some exercise using a new colloquialism I learned this week, “Asshat”, a somewhat more polite version of its better known sister term.

Last year, I had sent out some information about one of our services to senior pharma executives. One guy, a VP with one of the Big 5 pharma companies, responded with a request to meet. I brought along one of our Associates, an MD. We had a good meeting. I subsequently followed up with the potential client, but to no avail. No responses to my emails or phone messages. This appears to be the new standard of discourtesy; just don’t respond until they get the message you’re not interested. It frankly pisses me off. If you don’t want what we’re offering, just say so. We’re big boys (and girls) and can take it. But don’t make me waste my time following up with you because I think you may not have received my email!

Anyway, I just learned that after an illustrious 20 year career with the company, this gentleman has been downsized, and as is typical, has opened his own one-man consulting business (“Consulting” is often a euphemism for, “I lost my job and am ashamed to tell anyone”).  His first steps will likely include trying to leverage his network for work. This will likely include other consulting firms. I hope he calls. I will steer him to the dictionary for the term Asshat.

Very classy handling of parking ticket

It was raining cats and dogs when we pulled up to my VPN pizza heaven, Viva Napoli, in Toronto last week. There were a few available parking spaces out front and the signage (as far as I could tell since there were several signs each with different messages) seemed to indicate that it was OK to park there. We had a marvellous meal, but on exiting the restaurant I found a yellow plasticized parking ticket for $60 on my windshield. Downer!

I always pay my tickets promptly and attach the receipt, keeping them all in my glove compartment in the event that some cop stops me and claims I have unpaid tickets. I went to the City of Toronto payment web site indicated on the ticket and tried to make my payment. Every time I entered the infraction number, I received the response: “Your ticket has already been paid”. Computer glitch I figured. This morning, I called their customer service number and spoke to a representative, who informed me that the ticket had been cancelled because we were from Quebec and they don’t like to penalize visitors, or to quote the young lady on the phone, “It’s bad for tourism”.

I told my son. His reply was au point: “That’s so Canadian….we give you a ticket so that you’ll learn from the experience, but we don’t want it to hurt”.  I laughed. You’d never see that in Montreal. Hell, here they would also slap a boot on your car if you’re from out of town, to make sure you paid the ticket instead of skipping out!

What constitutes proof to a denialist?

Denialists will be the death of me. It doesn’t matter how much proof you show them, it’s either never enough, or the source is so suspect (to them) that it negates the value of the proof. Motivated Reasoning taken to the point of madness. And since Denialism runs hand-in-hand with conspiracy paranoia, one is better off spending one’s oxygen trying to convert a Jehovah’s Witness to Voodoo than convincing a denialist that Obama was born in the USA!

So what constitutes proof? I think, our former Prime Minister Jean Chretien said it best:

A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.

 

Canada’s new anti-spam legislation

Canada’s new anti-spam legislation comes into effect shortly, and I’ve been receiving quite a few requests from various sites that I interact with, for permission to continue to send me emails. Apparently, the new law carries massive fines for Canadian companies who send unsolicited emails. Suddenly, my own company can no longer send press releases to our massive contact list built over many years. We would have to send each person a formal continuation request, and many will simply ignore it, as I did for many sites that I wasn’t excited about.

All in all, this new legislation will eliminate probably 20 unsolicited emails per month from my inbox. 20. I get about a thousand a day from “other” sources, based in India, Africa, and other places not bound by our laws. What a joke! In reality, I didn’t even mind the emails I was getting from these “marginal” vendors; occasionally they had something that did interest me. But they’re not the ones clogging up the internet morons! God knows how many millions have been spent passing this law and setting up its enforcement. And it eliminates maybe 0.1% of my spam. Yup, my tax dollars at work.

I can rest assured that my daily inundation of emails for testosterone pills, Viagra, Russian Brides, and hair loss supplements will continue unabated. Hmmm….is there a pattern there?

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