Hocus Pocus For Premiership Players

November 26, 2009

It appears some local bloggers (e.g. Ulaca and In Black and White) like to comment on football or soccer, particularly but not exclusively from England’s Premier League. I’m also a fan so I’ve been thinking about posting something about soccer but with HKSARblog’s usual skepticism about certain practices.

So how about: Desperate and Injured Premiership Players Place Faith on Placental Fluid Miracle Cure?
The media circus started when Arsenal’s star striker Robin van Persie injured his ankle a week ago when playing for Holland against Italy. The initial diagnosis was that he had a partial tear in his ankle ligaments and would be sidelined for six weeks. He then announced that he was going to Belgrade in Serbia to seek a “mysterious housewife” who apparently can help players recover quicker by using placental fluid. Initially, the media did not know much about the treatment, by first saying that the woman massaged placental fluid taken from horses on the injured area. Next, it was dripped on. And now, there are reports that injections of placental fluid are involved. No one appears to know exactly what this alternative therapy is, or who this woman is.

Despite this, it later emerged that a whole gaggle (plethora? pile? posse?) of premiership players (e.g. Liverpool’s Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera; Chelsea’s Frank Lampard; Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta) and some top European players have also been treated by this “Mariana Kovacevic” who has at least three aliases and four different addresses. Why all the secrecy? Tax evasion perhaps, or something more sinister?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (usually considered rational, relative to other Premiership managers that is) said he “recognised the psychological benefits such a treatment may have on an injured player”. Yes, Arsene may be on to something here. As with many alternative therapies, the placebo effect can sometimes be significant.

Furthermore, we are talking here about elite athletes in the prime of their lives, whose body conditioning can be significantly different compared with “normal” people (i.e. ordinary citizens who do not maintain their bodies at above-average condition on a full-time and prolonged basis). For instance, if you treat a bunch of injured people with the same therapy and divide them in to two groups (one group being young elite athletes; the other being older, unfit and overweight people), it would not be unreasonable to perhaps expect a difference between the groups in their recovery period and performance. A good example would be swine flu: there have been cases of professional football players who have caught swine flu, and none have died. Whereas in other demographics, some people have died from swine flu.

This is why proper clinical trials should always be arranged, rather than relying on testimonies; in this case testimonies from superfit elite athletes.

Still, all this Hocus Pocus malarkey in the Premiership is interesting to follow. Eventually, the truth will out.

Domestic Violence in Hong Kong

November 21, 2009

Is there an increase in domestic violence in Hong Kong, or are women and support groups lobbying better, or is the media covering this issue more? Perhaps a combination? What can be observed is there appears to be more stories in the local media about domestic violence, such as:

Help system `failing’ battered women (Nov 02, 2009)
Wife punched 10 times after she refused to have sex, court told (Nov 05, 2009)
Kung fu master found guilty of beating girlfriend (Nov 20, 2009)

The latest domestic violence case involved a 62-year-old man who beat up his 45-year-old girlfriend. The man happened to be a famous kung fu master too. I guess he won’t be so easily bullied during his two-month jail stint!

I wonder what a CantoPop or MandoPop version of Luka would be like? Or how about a Chinese version of this famous song from Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs (unfortunately, I can’t find the MTV Unplugged version):
Don’t Talk

At 1:50 Natalie Merchant makes it clear that this song is about domestic violence (due to alcohol).

Don’ Talk lyrics

Don’t talk, I will listen.
Don’t talk, you keep your distance
for I’d rather hear some truth tonight than entertain your lies,
so take you poison silently. Let me be. Let me close my eyes.

Don’t talk, I’ll believe it.
Don’t talk, listen to me instead,
I know that if you think of it, both long enough and hard
the drink you drown your troubles in is the trouble you’re in now.

Talk talk talk about it, you talk as if you care
but when your talk is over you tilt that bottle in the air,
tossing back more than your share.

Don’t talk, I can guess it.
Don’t talk, well now you’re restless
and you need somewhere to put the blame for how you feel inside.
You’ll look for a close and easy mark and you’ll see me as fair game.

Talk talk talk about it, talk as if you care
but when your talk is over you tilt that bottle in the air
tossing back more than your share.
You talk talk talk about it, you talk as if you care.
I’m marking every word and can tell this time for sure,
your talk is the finest I have heard.

So don’t talk, let me go on dreaming.
How your eyes they glow so fiercely I can tell that you’re inspired
by the name you just chose for me. Now what was it? O, never mind now.
We will talk talk talk about this when your head is clear.
I’ll discuss this in the morning, but until then you may talk but I won’t hear

Related Posts
What’s The Matter Here?
Suzanne Vega and Luka Revisited and Redefined

Learning Common Sense?

September 27, 2009

In the SCMP’s letters page, there was an interesting premise: “Hospital staff need to learn common sense”. This is rather like closing the stable door once the horse has bolted … only the door is probably so ridden with huge gaping holes that it is little wonder the horse escaped in the first place!!

[Stable Door, courtesy The Free Dictionary]

The premise is wishing thinking. Once people reach adulthood, their brains’ wiring is pretty much fixed on certain pathways of cognition and “reasoning”. It is extremely difficult to unlearn this and to learn some “common sense” if it has not already been instilled. This is why it is extremely difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. Besides, what is “common sense” to one person may not be so “obvious” to another.

Teaching people at a young age (i.e. at school) critical thinking skills is the best solution. The next best solution is for employers (in this case, the Hospital Authority and/or the HKSAR Government) to test job applicants and assess all current employees on their reasoning skills. This will at least help to filter out those who are just plain stupid or lazy to think and act appropriately in real time. Unfortunately, this will never happen.

Reference (SCMP; subscription required)

Hospital staff need to learn common sense
Sep 26, 2009

I was puzzled by the comments of the Hospital Authority chief on another blunder by Caritas Medical Centre staff regarding the treatment of a seven-year-old boy with an eye injury (“Hospitals chief defends Caritas staff member”, September 21).

Shane Solomon said that “what the clerk was doing was to implement the policy”.

One would have expected that further to the blunder in December of last year (when a man collapsed with a heart attack outside Caritas Medical Centre and later died), instead of reviewing policies and procedures and probably implementing new ones, the authority would have tried to promote the concept of common sense with its staff.

What kind of place are we living in when it is fine to simply “implement the policy” for HK$700 without caring for a seven-year-old boy?

Any patient has the right to expect Hospital Authority staff, of whatever the rank, from receptionist to neurosurgeon, to be equipped with some common sense and a conviction that they are paid by the public to help and care for the public.

At the very least, if they feel that they are not in a position to bend the rules for a good cause, they should call a supervisor who hopefully will be able to make a correct decision.

Raphael Blot, Sai Kung

Ink Poisoning Scam: Fish n’ Chips Anyone?

September 19, 2009

Today’s Hong Kong media scare is a silly story about “ink poisoning”. For years the British have scoffed down fish n’ chips from newspapers soaked in vinegar and tomato sauce! Think about the ink seepage from that? Any side effects or poisonings?

The obvious answer is “no”. No side effects. However, there are direct effects from eating too many fried food items such as chips and deep-fried mars bars … but that’s another story!

French fry lovers told to ink twice before they eat
Adele Wong
Friday, September 18, 2009

Diners who spread their french fries across paper tray mats in fast-food restaurants to get maximum ketchup coverage may be risking ink poisoning.The warning comes from the unlikely source of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, which says the greasy practice is hazardous because ink from the paper may seep into the fries.

But experts at the Centre for Food Safety say the party’s claim is without foundation.

A random DAB inspection of McDonald’s and KFC outlets in the mainland found written warnings advising customers not to put food directly on top of paper mats.

Hong Kong has no such warnings, said Danny Chan Chung-cheung of the DAB.

As a result, mainlanders have developed the habit of putting a paper napkin down before placing their food on the trays.

The center said there is no scientific evidence to prove that ink on food may damage your health.

But Chan urged the center to follow up on the matter and also promote higher hygiene standards in the city’s fast food chains by, for example, placing wash basins near restaurant cashiers and in customer areas to encourage handwashing.

A spokeswoman for the center said customers should not place food directly on tray mats because they are not designed for that purpose.

But she added studies show that when printing ink is ingested it does not pose significant health risks.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said: “All packaging that is in contact with our food, including the tray mat, are governed by strict quality control measures.

“We also ensure the paint being used [on tray mats] meets international food safety requirements.”

A KFC spokeswoman said all its packaging materials, including paper used in food baskets, are up to food safety standards.

“We are now [considering putting] precautionary wordings on all tray mats,” the spokeswoman said.

Dr Yeung Chi-hung, senior lecturer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s department of applied biology and chemical technology, said customers need not worry too much about the health risks of ink.

Yeung said it used to be a general practice in Hong Kong for people to wrap food such as raw meat in newspapers, and he is not aware of any harmful side effects.

Whether ink from tray mats may be absorbed by the food depends on the length of exposure and the area of contact, he said.

Chinese Cherry Picking

August 21, 2009

The following sentence sounds pretty lucky: “Eight [people] work at the “888” noodle shop in the basement of the Cameron Centre in Cameron Road” … until you realize these “lucky eight” were victims who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do people (i.e. numerologists, Chinese astrologists, Fung Shui practitioners, and those who believe in such Hocus Pocus) take notice of the “lucky” number eight in such negative situations? Clearly not. It is human nature that people only pay attention to “lucky” numbers that confirm their biases and will usually ignore any incidents that reject their predetermined view.

Related Post Chinese Fiddlesticks!

Reference (SCMP; subscription required)

10 ill after inhaling gas at noodle shop
Clifford Lo
Aug 13, 2009

Ten people at a Japanese-style noodle shop in Tsim Sha Tsui ended up in hospital yesterday when the ventilation system broke, raising carbon monoxide levels to 20 times the standard level.

Eight of the victims work at the “888” noodle shop in the basement of the Cameron Centre in Cameron Road. There was also one customer – a three-year-old boy – and a man who works in a ground-floor shop.

Last night a 27-year-old man was in serious condition in Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the others had been discharged.

Six fire engines, eight ambulances and a mobile casualty treatment centre were dispatched after the restaurant workers complained of inhaling gas and feeling unwell just before 2pm. Most said they felt dizzy or were having difficulty breathing. They were connected to oxygen masks after being carried into ambulances.

Police cordoned off a section of Cameron Road while firemen wearing breathing apparatus and carrying gas detectors were tracing the source of the gas. Shops at ground level were ordered to close until about 6pm.

Workers from the Drainage Services Department were called in to open the covers of nearby manholes to carry out checks. The Fire Services Department said there was a high concentration of carbon monoxide in the restaurant and an initial investigation showed it had been caused by a faulty ventilation system.

Lo Kam-wing, Tsim Sha Tsui fire station commander, said the level of carbon monoxide at one time was 20 times higher than the standard level.

“Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas. Inhaling the gas makes it difficult to breathe and you feel dizzy,” he said.

A fire officer said the gas level was raised because there was no fresh air being pumped into the restaurant.

Choi Kin, former president of the Medical Association, said the percentage of carbon monoxide in fresh air was low and it would not have a fatal effect even if the level was 20 times higher than normal. However, inhaling large amounts could cause suffocation and brain damage.

“Lightning” Bolt vs Duracell “Battery” Bekele

August 19, 2009

How fast can you run 100m and how many times can you repeat it consecutively?

I’m simply amazed at how fast elite athletes run. At the 2009 Athletics World Championships in Berlin, we have seen Usain Bolt of Jamaica running 100m in a world record time of 9.58 seconds, and then Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia running 10,000m in a championship record time of 26 minutes 45.11 seconds.

[Usain Bolt (L) and Kenenisa Bekele (R)]

Having recently started to run on the athletics track, I am in awe of what elite athletes achieve, particularly middle- and long-distance runners.

Even though Bolt smashed the 100m world record (a remarkable feat), I am more inclined to be amazed at the pace set by middle-distance runners like Bekele and fellow Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, and by long-distance runners.

To put it into context, Bekele completed 10,000m in 26 minutes 45.11 seconds. Essentially, he ran the 100m in 16.05 seconds one hundred times. That to me is incredible … non-stop sprinting for about 27 minutes. At a guess, Bolt can probably run 100m at a steady pace (say, 12 or 13 seconds) for perhaps 10 or 20 times non-stop before his pace drops dramatically.

And yes, there is a difference in body make up, with powerful explosive sprinters having a preponderance of fast twitch muscles, while middle- and long-distance athletes having a predominance of slow twitch muscles. That’s the physiological difference: explosive but short-lived performance versus endurance.

HK Doppelganger 1

March 14, 2009

Dr Lam Ping-yan  //  Captain Pugwash

Internet Sources:
Dr Lam Ping-yan (HK gov, Dept of Health)
Captain Pugwash (Whirligig, Wikipedia)


About HK Doppelgangers: This is just a lighthearted, superficial list of real Hong Kong people (usually in the public eye) and their doppelgangers (either real or fictional). No offence is intended, and any resemblances are entirely due to one’s own perceptions shaped by experience and exposure to life’s wonderful social diversity.

Hocus Pocus in Hong Kong

March 8, 2009

In Hong Kong, it is relatively easy to come across events listings that contain plenty of alternative and New Age practices. These kooky courses and weird workshops prey on gullible people willing to pay good money that could otherwise be better spent getting a decent education or pragmatic advice for themselves, or in helping those less fortunate than themselves.

Since the events listings reveal an embarrassment of crackpot classes allegedly taking place in Hong Kong, this blog will start another HKSAR list called Hong Kong Hocus Pocus. This will be a weekly or twice-weekly posting exposing all manner of Hocus Pocus happenings in Hong Kong. Enjoy!

Hocus Pocus here is defined as practices that involve chicanery, deception, hoaxes, quacks, shams, and trickery. By applying a dose of critical thinking, these scam practices can be exposed as nonsense.

Here is another example of the kind of Hocus Pocus happenings in Hong Kong (reference: Messianic Flyer).