Mickey's Musings

The World Can Be Ugly. Make Something Pretty Every Day!

‘Bet You Won’t Re-Post This’: War on Christmas Edition November 22, 2015

Filed under: uncategorized — mickeymusing @ 2:43 pm

images (1)I love the Christmas season. I love the time of year, the lights, the music, the atmosphere of good will among men—at least we have a bit of wonderful optimism for a few days to distract us from our inexplicable drive to kill each other (in the name of God). It is pretty hard to ruin this time of year for me, but there are some ‘good Christians’ giving it their best shot. I have stayed out of this debate for many years—mainly because I consider it ridiculous, petty and beneath the intent of the season. But the cyber-bullying on social media about saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is starting before Thanksgiving this year, so I am speaking out.

First, I was born and raised a Christian. My mother had  Fruits of the Spirit magnets on our refrigerator as a daily reminder of the qualities that Christ and his early followers said would identify true Christians: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering (forbearance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23). Nowhere on that list will you find pettiness, faux-martyrdom, or self-absorption. There are no calls to ‘dare’ people to prove their worth to you by demanding they adopt your viewpoint or religious beliefs. A gentle and kind person who has self-control does not throw a tantrum because someone failed to use just the right words to wish them well during a season that is sacred to many religious faiths.

Secondly, if Jesus were on Earth today, it is highly unlikely he would say ‘merry Christmas’ or condone the excessive displays of piety or orgies of commercialism that occur in supposed tribute to him. Jews and early Christians of that era did not make a habit of celebrating birthdays—Pagans did. It is also unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25th (which is–not coincidentally–the day Pagans celebrated Saturnalia). So for modern Christians concerned that their beliefs are being trampled on, your argument is actually with 4th century Rome whose leaders largely trampled on early Christian practices by incorporating pagan practices into Christian orthodoxy in order to appease–and more easily rule (at least as much a political as religious decision)–a restless population. It is not with bystanders who wish you ‘happy holidays.’

Most modern Christians, even those who actually know the history of Christmas, don’t feel its pagan origins are problematic because the message is one of honoring Christ and of tradition—not specific doctrine. That’s a reasonable viewpoint, as long as they remember that Christians are not the only group with traditions and many other religious groups have traditions and holidays this time of year that far pre-date Christmas. You can’t demand respect for your traditions if you are unwilling to extend it to others.

Third, there are a number of holidays that occur this time of year. Three in the American Christian tradition come immediately to mind—Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. There are also Jewish holidays, African holidays and holidays related to other faiths during this season. The objection to saying ‘happy holidays’ is new. When I was growing up, the phrase was used commonly. Certainly no one found it offensive or got their undies in a bunch over it. It is only in the past decade that this inclusive and inoffensive greeting has been turned into a manufactured threat to supposed Christians. Just based on sheer number of individual holidays represented at this time of year, it is a perfectly reasonable alternative to having to list off all special days. It is incredibly petty, childish and self-involved to choose take this saying as a personal affront to your religious beliefs and it requires serious pretzel logic to understand how something so innocuous can be made into a ‘war’ on Christian beliefs. If you have to go to such absurd lengths to prove you are persecuted, you are not persecuted. And remember, persecution happens to the innocent. If you are acting like a jerk and people treat you like you are acting like a jerk, that is not persecution. That represents an entirely different Biblical principle: Reaping what you’ve sown.

Lastly, posts that demand someone say, do or think a certain way and then prove it by re-posting or replying are cyber-bullying. And they are narcissistic. The real point of posts like this is to demonstrate that the poster is superior to others—a better friend, a better patriot, a better Christian. This is not how friends treat each other. Anyone who demands that I prove myself to them based on some arbitrary and petty standard is not my friend.

So the new spate of ‘bet you aren’t strong enough, Christian enough or my friend enough’ to wish me ‘merry Christmas’ posts on social media are bullying, plain and simple. They are efforts to force people to adopt the poster’s position, OR ELSE (lose their friendship, be publicly exposed for being not Christian enough, etc). My reaction to these posts is that anyone sending them is not my friend (and, in fact, is not a very good friend to anyone) and is not the type of Christian I was raised to be or want to be. I would have no problem wishing you ‘merry Christmas.’ Nor would I have a problem wishing my Jewish friends ‘happy Hannukah’ or my atheist friends ‘joy of the season’ or strangers whose religious preferences are unknown to me ‘happy holidays.’ I don’t test my friends by forcing them to adopt my standards and I do not find it threatening that my friends hold different views than I do. I most certainly do not consider them to be ‘at war’ with me because of it.

I am obviously failing on the long-suffering thing. I have lost patience with this nonsense and invite the navel-gazers outraged over coffee cups –who are so busy worrying about their personal victimhood because strangers are wishing them happy holidays instead of merry Christmas–to try to remember what this season is actually supposed to be about. Here’s a helpful hint: Jesus didn’t die for your hair-trigger feelings or your sense of entitlement.


Gullibility about Disorders Disorder II March 26, 2014

Filed under: uncategorized — mickeymusing @ 9:45 am

Response to comments from this thread on Retraction Watch: http://retractionwatch.com/2014/03/25/march-madness-harvard-profs-take-shots-at-controversial-studies-request-retractions/#more-19391


Pharma seems to look for fields characterized by less scientific rigor to farm for drug development opportunities. Psychiatry has been a fertile field, but it has gotten so absurd that even the general public is beginning to question the legitimacy of some of these disorders or whether they actually require a pharmaceutical solution. Nutrition is a natural next target. Pseudoscience is well and truly established in this area (although I disagree that nutrition ‘isn’t a science’–there are legit scientific efforts in nutrition, it’s just that the quacks tend to dominate the discussion), so lack of actual evidence doesn’t pose a major issue for pharma.

A few years back there was a push to pathologize picky eating as a psychiatric disorder based on a new phenomenon of people refusing to eat foods they considered ‘unclean.’ It was the perfect merger of bad, misinterpreted nutritional information, of the sort shared by Dr. Oz and his ilk on TV and through the Internet every day, getting into the hands of people with underlying psych problems and limited critical thinking ability. Instead of recognizing the social context for modern information overload triggering new expressions of existing, already known psych conditions (obsessive-compulsive problems, eating disorders, excessive self-focus, etc.) a new disorder was created. No doubt existing off-patent drugs will be largely ineffective to treat the scourge of ‘Picky Eating Disorder’ and a new, very expensive drug will need to be developed.

To be clear, I don’t doubt that there are individuals very impaired by obsessive concerns about food. I just highly doubt it is a brand new, discrete disorder. This is another issue with pathologizing normal life and mild behavioral quirks. It manages to trivialize real problems by lumping them in with the largely self-imposed concerns of the worried well.

I think it’s time we recognize ‘Gullibility about Disorders Disorder,’ or GADD, as a serious and very expensive western health problem. Not sure what the cure is, but I hypothesize that an RCT would demonstrate that a simple, very inexpensive slap upside the head might be quite effective.


And Now for Something Completely Different October 29, 2013

Filed under: uncategorized — mickeymusing @ 11:27 am


My sister sent this.  I think she was trying to help me find a Halloween costume I could make using materials on hand.  Saggy boobs? Check. Strategically placed cellulite? Check.  Everyday allover body paint in assorted colors? Check. But I think I might go for Golden Retrievers instead, so I don’t have to pluck anything–you know, more convenient, less painful.

Wonder if it would be possible to put some collars around those babies? Maybe muzzles (does Playtex make any)?

None So Blind: The U of MN and Dan Markingson May 9, 2013

Filed under: health care policy & reform,medicine — mickeymusing @ 3:29 pm

Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the death of Dan Markingson, a victim of (at the very least) questionable clinical research at the University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry. For his mother, Mary Weiss, Dan’s loss must surely be compounded by the knowledge that nothing has changed at the U of MN.  This tragic reality was brought home for me a week ago when I was challenged by U of MN researchers (from an entirely different part of the medical school) about inviting Dr. Carl Elliott to speak to patient advocacy groups about research ethics. They objected strongly to his inclusion on the schedule.  I heard them out–people see things differently and I was interested in their perspective. What bothered me is not that they objected to Dr. Elliott, their fellow faculty member at the U of MN, but why.

This conversation took place in the context of a meeting of investigators who are part of a rare disease clinical research network at NIH. My role in this network is as chair of the patient advocacy group arm of the network, which is focused on patient welfare in the research process, as well as on advocating for research to improve access to therapies. Obviously, there are a number of diverse interests  involved in a network such as this and there can be competing priorities and conflicts of interest. However, the role of the patient advocates should not be murky to anyone.  Our job is to represent the patient interest first and foremost, even it that requires opposition to investigators,  pharma or government interests at times. I assumed this was clearly understood by all.

Which is why it was so odd to have investigators track me down immediately after the meeting to express their concern that I would consider asking Dr. Elliott to speak.  They were crystal clear about where their loyalties lay–‘Dr. Elliott is too anti-pharma and that could jeopardize our current working relationship with ______ .’  They were dismissive, disdainful and made alternative suggestions naming people who have distinguished themselves primarily (IMO) for being ‘ethics for hire’ folks.  One of their suggested speakers is someone who has actually taken the utilitarian ‘bean counter’ position regarding rare disease research, suggesting in writing that it is a waste of funds that could be better used to help diseases that impact more people. Why in the world would rare disease patient groups want such an individual to speak to them (not to mention he was intimately involved in a notorious case of research misconduct involving current researchers in this network)? Why would they assume their deference  to pharma would/should supercede my obligation to the patient groups and, by extension, rare disease patients?

A top-level government staff person involved with the network was present for this conversation.  I was a bit flabbergasted by the position of the U of MN group, so the following day called the staff person to be sure I had accurately interpreted the conversation. I had. It turns out that pharma is essentially controlling the agenda of several of these research consortia in a way that is potentially impeding progress for disease groups that are participating in consortium activities, but whose specific condition is not of interest to  the pharma ‘partner.’ These groups were enticed to participate in a ‘collaborative’ research consortium, only to discover collaboration means accepting whatever research priority pharma dictates.   Researchers have, in effect, surrendered control of their own projects over fear of losing pharma support.  I think most people would call that bullying, yet the researchers from the U of MN seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they had essentially just acknowledged–to a patient advocate no less–that patient interests come second to appeasing pharma.

Happily, most of these consortia have very transparent and productive interaction with their pharmaceutical partners and if other researchers have been threatened with loss of support should the investigators fail to dance to their tune, I am not aware of it. It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that this issue came up with U of MN researchers, however.

The reputation of the U of MN has been tarnished by their handling of Dan Markingson’s case and, if current experiences are any indication, it will not be rehabilitated any time soon.  On the anniversary of this tragedy, my heart bleeds for Mary Weiss and for Dan.


You Know All the Concerns People Had About Appointing An Anti-Science Creationist Nincompoop to Chair the House Science Committee?

Filed under: current events,politics — mickeymusing @ 2:34 pm

It appears they were well-founded.

Lamar Smith (aforementioned nincompoop), appointed to chair the House of Representatives Science Committee by the Reddish Weepy One, is doing all in his power to drag the nation down to his Texas-sized level of scientific illiteracy. In typical Republican form, his first outrageous act was to propose massive funding cuts to the NSF.  This extra-legislative tactic is, sadly, all too effective and operates on the following principle: If you can’t kill something outright, you can slowly starve it to death by denying funding (see also ‘flat’ funding for NIH for the past decade).

Having received some serious pushback for his direct assault on the nation’s scientific literacy, Smith came up with an EVEN BETTER way to obstruct the progress of science–have Congress included in the ‘peer’ review process of any paper resulting from work financed by a government grant. You heard that right. Mr. Smith (grad-e-ate of The Episcopal School of Texas, Southern Baptist University and, in fairness, also Yale where he learnt bizness, financin’ and lawyerin’) believes himself to be a scientific ‘peer’ capable of determining the validity, veracity and integrity of scientific papers.

Since very few people use the terms ‘validity, veracity, integrity,’ and ‘Congress’ in the same sentence, it is hard to imagine how Mr. Smith thought he could sell this particular gem.  There is a certain Chutzpah-ish brilliance in it, however.


Louisiana State Senator First Dem to Win Coveted Wonkette ‘Legislative Shitmuffin of the Year’ Nom May 6, 2013

Filed under: current events,politics — mickeymusing @ 8:34 am

Nominees for Wonkette’s ‘Legislative Shitmuffin of the Year’ distinguish themselves by sponsoring, supporting or introducing legislation that it so idiotic, egregious and contrary to the common good that it defies human decency.  Not surprisingly, the competition is fierce between the more far-right elements of our body politic. However, with the recent efforts of one Elbert Guillory (D [for dumb ass]–some hellhole in LA) to squash the repeal of an education bill that allows teachers to ‘supplement’ science material with pretty much whatever they want. Rep Guillory’s rationale for this? He was correctly diagnosed by a witchdoctor/voodoo practitioner (could it be his diagnosis was Gullibility about Disorders Disorder?) so, ipso facto, post hoc ergo propter hoc, all forms of belief system are equally valid, QED.

So many strong nominees this year!  Not sure when Wonkette will be naming the winners, but they may want to consider establishing  categories (just like the Oscar’s!) for local, state and federal shitmuffinery to accommodate all the talent.


Adventures in Yarn Dyeing May 4, 2013

Filed under: uncategorized — mickeymusing @ 10:53 am

Assuming you’re like most people, you no doubt have skeins and skeins of bare wool yarn sitting around and also lots of packets of Kool Aid® drink mix–the old-fashioned kind with no sugar added (say, like 30 or so in an assortment of flavors). Me too! That was EXACTLY the situation I found myself in one weekend when inspiration hit and I decided to try to transform my volumes of bland, natural colored yarn that was sitting around unused into volumes of bright, fruity colored yarn that will sit around unused. Problem solved!

If you wish to recreate my success–besides determination–here is what you will need:


Yarn–natural animal fiber yarn is best for Kool Aid® dyeing. I used 100% wool in lace weight, worsted weight and chunky weightImage

Kool-Aid® other other no sugar added powdered drink mix with vibrant colors–amount depends on color saturation you want, but I used between 6 and 10 packets per 100 grams of yarn (note: you need to divide the yarn and the Kool Aid between  mason jars if you use the microwave method)


Food coloring–I ended up wanting to create a teal color and needed a few drops of black food coloring to achieve it

Vinegar–any kind will do, but I used distilled white vinegar Note: Not necessary with drink mix products, but needed to ‘set’ the dye with food coloring

Canning/mason jars for microwave method


Large stockpot for stovetop method


Crockpot for crockpot method


Master Dyer (me)

Inexplicably Negative Curmudgeon– with ‘opinions’ (my son)


Quality Assurance Officer (Tiny Milt)


Manager willing to turn a blind eye to questionable practices (Gus)



Performance Enhancing Drug (with cream)




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