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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cynicism, scepticism and other odd stuff

Whilst I have an optimistic outlook on life in general, scepticism is nonetheless alive and well in the James household, particularly when it comes to topics which don't have a whole bunch of data to support some pretty outrageous claims. You should see me froth at the mouth at most TV adverts - devices for allegedly improving vehicle fuel economy, magic creams for restoring lost youth and that's just for starters. On top of that, so-called clairvoyants, televangelists and so on - all good for raising a head of steam.  Jennie just sighs and says that's just one of the downsides of living with an engineer who has dealt in facts and data all his life.    However, I might, just might, have to eat a slice of humble pie.  Feel slightly uncomfortable in talking about it, but never mind; I've got broad shoulders to take the expected teasing!

Someone near and dear says that sometimes (mostly??) I have the maturity of a 5 year old. I'm not going to debate that here but would dearly love the physical resilience of a 5 year old.  Overall, I'm in good nick for 63 not-so-careful years but old sports injuries to my knees a give a fair bit of grief.  Fortunately, this shows up when walking, not riding so we can be thankful for small mercies.

We're off to Vietnam, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in March.  There will be a fair bit of walking involved and some concerns about how well my knees will handle it.  A couple of months before Xmas, a local friend who is a fellow biker and ultra-keen cyclist was suffering from a hip ailment that had curtailed all forms of riding.  To cut a longish tale short, he bought one of those "power" wristbands endorsed by numerous sporting personalities, which apparently work on acupressure, magnetism, voodoo or Lord knows what.  Within a very short time, he was running around like a spring lamb and said that when he left it off for a few days, the symptoms started returning. Improved dramatically when he wore it again. Hardly rigorous medical evidence of course but my friend is a smart, well-grounded guy with a healthy dose of scepticism so wasn't inclined to pull his leg.

Fast-forward to last weekend when I had to run an errand to the nearby town of Whitianga.  Sun shining, so decided to take the Street Triple as it was early morning and the lunatic holidaymakers would hardly be out of bed, let alone getting on the highway and spoiling a great day by choosing which side to drive on at random.

Last Saturday's shopping trip to Whitianga - a tad hot in full leathers!

The main purpose of the errand was knocked off in double-quick time and for no strong reason,  remembered that my mate had purchased his power wristband at a shop not far from where I was parked.  Sidled in to enquire about them, being met by a young female shop assistant.  Not quite with the embarrassment of a guy buying a marital aid or Viagra (only guessing, hehe), but still felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole business.  The assistant was remarkably unfazed and down to earth and as they weren't outrageously expensive, decided to buy one.

Slipped it on a wrist when I got home and forgot about it until a couple of hours later when I realised that my knees were nowhere near as sore as they usually are when standing or walking about for longish periods.  The improvement has continued all week.  Not a cure, but a significant lessening in the pain.  Placebo effect?  Possibly, but isn't a sceptic supposed to be largely immune to the placebo effect?  The claims of why they work may well be pure horsesh*t, but that doesn't mean that they don't work for another, unknown reason.  Whatever has caused the sudden improvement , I'm simply grateful for it. Just hoping it lasts until Vietnam!

Finally, there have been a few recent posts by motorcycle bloggers from around the world, me included; where feline members of their family featured prominently. A recent thread on a local bike forum brought back memories of a Kiwi guy, Max Corkhill; who adopted a kitten whilst living and working in Canada. Max and Rastus were inseparable, with Rastus travelling in an open tank bag on Max's BMW throughout Canada and the USA. There are some wonderful tales of their adventures in North America. When Max returned to NZ, Rastus came with him and the two of them raised a not inconsiderable sum for charity. I had the privilege of meeting them both at a classic bike meeting in their home province in the 90's - absolute characters. Rastus clearly regarded himself as Lord of All He Surveyed and wasn't alarmed by anything.

Tragically, Rastus, Max and his partner were killed instantly by a careless driver in the late 1990's. The affection in which they were held is clearly shown by the huge motorcycle presence at the funeral cort├Ęge. Here's the link to a very good article on their life and times: Rastus and Max

Rastus and Max Corkhill - what a partnership!

32 comments:

  1. Great post once again Geoff. Interesting that you mentioned the powerbands as a few members of my family have them and have noticed that they have noticed an improvement while wearing them.

    As to whether or not they actually work, I think the jury is still out on that one....but if wearing a rubber band on your wrist lessens pain, then I say go for it!

    Weather is still very ordinary here, we are waiting for the flood waters to head this way, (possibly later today) I'm the only person left from our three offices who is still working.

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  2. Thanks Anthony!

    Yep, who knows but I'm not regretting a pragmatic decision to buy one so far! I'm using a Kiwi one called an Eken (they have a website) and most of the NZ Rugby 7's team seem to use them.

    Really sorry to hear the floods are coming your way mate and best wishes. A friend of Jennie's who she went to school with lives 25km NW of Towoomba. They're currently at their apartment at Caloundra and can't get home to see how things are.

    Take good care out there...

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  3. Thanks Geoff, I've heard of the Eken ones. Hope all goes well with your knees for your trip - sounds like its going to be a great one. In three days my brother and his wife are heading off for a three week trip through China, Mongolia and Siberia, a nice way to escape the ugly Brisbane weather.

    Toowoomba are copping it really bad. We haven't had a lot of rain here today (even had some sun for a while) but the catchment areas up river are being hammered with torrential rain, so we just have to wait until it peaks. Low-tide this morning was higher than the high-tide mark!

    I just want some dry weather and an empty road!!

    cheers mate.

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  4. Great story. Bah, humbug? I don't think so. It might just work like acupressure, and gets your chi flowing again. But even if it is a placebo effect, as long as it does the trick... who cares? Looking forward to reading from your travels. Vietnam is on my bucket list!

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  5. Geoff:

    Okay, I'll bite. Send me the funds to purchase one of those magnetic bracelets and I'll try it out and write a review for you. I've been sceptical until now but if you are a believer, then I can give it a go .

    In the meantime I could try out one of those elastic band bracelets. Would different colours be needed for different ailments ?

    bob
    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

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  6. Glad to hear you are out and about. I have to admit I am a bit jealous. We've been socked in with snow and a layer of ice on top of it. The whole town is a series of wrecks. Semis wrecked on all the major interstates have sections of all the arteries around town shut down. I keep walking out in the garage and rubbing on the bike. I hear Jimmy Buffet in my head saying, "I gotta go where it's warm!"

    Really glad to hear the power wristband seems to be working for you. Hoping you have absolutely no knee pains during your trip.

    -Peace

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  7. Hi Bob:
    My scepticism isn't overcome that easily, but it's an interesting coincidence. I have never experienced this length of relief before so will continue to monitor and ponder. Haven't taken any anti-inflammatories this week either.

    With an expensive holiday looming (and let's not get into a debate as to whether retired people can have a holiday!), I'd prefer to save money rather than funding an independent Bobscoot test, but thanks for the kind offer :-).

    Allen:
    Don't get snow where we live and frosts on the roof of the car are pretty rare too. However, volcanic activity, earthquakes and cyclones aren't unheard of so we all have crosses to bear. Saw some of your winter storms on TV a couple of nights ago - shocking!

    Thanks for the good wishes...

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  8. Ineresting blod Geoff, I think we are of kindred spirit! I also alway think the cup is halful....unless of course it is half bloody empty. Nice read about the old man and the cat, his story is still touching lives long after his death, perhaps that is his greatest achivement. we would all like to leave our mark on this world long after we left it, he succeded.

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  9. Rastus and Max - Awesome!
    Good luck with the wrist band. Bit of a skeptic myself, but placebo or not if the knees feel better, then it's all good! And if it means less meds to take, then even better.

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  10. What works works, yes? I, also, am in my seventh decade. It is amazing all the reminders of good times (and some foolish times) are imprinted on this body. I definitely know when the weather is changing :)

    I do hope you have a wonderful holiday and that whatever magic is working at the moment continues until at least you are back home safe.

    The picture of Rastus is amazing!
    ~Keith

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  11. Being an engineer, I guess my feet are deeply rooted in the "you've got to be kidding" camp also. But if you bought that rubber thing for you wrist from what was obviously a shop selling gear for a particular market (nudge, nudge) and it works, then why not? I haven't seen then in my wifes Victoria Secrets catalogue yet though! Hope your knees survive the holiday.

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  12. Roger:
    Yep, I'm pretty sure that we have similar views on life! I think Max and Rastus are a great example of the trust and affection which can develop between different species.

    Bluekat:
    They are indeed. At Rallies, Rastus would say hello to literally everyone there, but he was very much his own person and certainly wouldn't ingratiate himself! And yes, no meds is definitely a real positive thanks!

    Keith:
    Absolutely and despite the foolish times, I wouldn't change a thing - It's called living your life!!! Thank you for the good wishes, really looking forward to it. Won't be riding a motorbike in the chaos which is Vietnam!

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  13. That was a good read. Wish I could have seen them going on the road with the cat perched up there like General Washington crossing the Delaware.

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  14. A healthy dose of skepticism is good these days and as an engineer, you are infected for life. That sounds like a great trip! Is it pretty unstructured?

    Richard

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  15. Hi Sonja!

    Who knows? Only time will tell! We had to defer Vietnam when jennie had her hip surgery so it's unfinished business for us!

    Gary!
    It was a sports shop actually but that didn't make it any easier. I can picture you thumbing through Victoria's Secret catalogue (just like when we used to thumb through the mail order catalogues when we were kids!). Must admit I did some shopping there for Jennie when I was working in Alabama! Your fault that we got on this track!!!!

    WooleyBugger:
    They were an amazing pair. When they were travelling in the USA, they were surrounded in one town by Hells Angels and Max thought his number was up. Apparently, all they wanted to do was stare and they ended up buying both Max and Rastus a meal!!!

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  16. Richard, don't I know it!! Our daughter calls engineers the Oompa Loompas of Science as she just about died of laughing when she heard that on the TV comedy series "The Big Bang Theory". She even downloaded the Oompa Loompa song onto my cell phone as the ring tone when I wasn't about!

    It's a small group trip in Vietnam (no more than 10 people)and we have a fair bit of flexibility although we've already selected a number of things we want to do (kayaking in Halong Bay, the Vietcong tunnels to name but two). Completely unstructured in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore although we have 2 things in mind.

    Pleased to see you love Dilbert. We were certain that he modelled his characters on our company, which just goes to show how universal the issues are!

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  17. If the thing works, enjoy it. I think Dilbert is more universal than across engineering companies. I'm the total opposite of an engineer and still find I relate.

    You'll be posting religiously every day from Vietnam, right?

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  18. Hi Irondad!
    It was an international pulp and paper manufacturer - I just happened to look after the maintenance engineering in it. What I should have said is that virtually every employee in every organisation worldwide thinks that Dilbert was modelled on their company!

    Errr... not unless somebody gives me a sat phone! I actually intend to stop blogging rather than boring people to death but the odd thing crops up that is probably worth posting.

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  19. I love Rastus - great to see a cat on a bike. I especially love his kitteh protective gear. My cats yowl their heads off in a CAR - I think they'd expire with fright on a bike! (Well, Oscar has already expired, but he used to shriek loudly enough to wake the dead whenever he was in the car).

    If the wrist band means you can abandon those gut-gobbling anti-inflammatories for a while - hooray! Who cares how it works, as long as it DOES! (I don't need to understand HOW my mobile phone/plumbing/V-twin engine works in order to use it!

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  20. Cheers Sue! Our old Persian used to hate my old 400 Honda - used to pee against the crankcase and boy, is cat pee corrosive! Never did it to my BMW though - perhaps he recognised class!

    Absolutely - it just goes against the grain to use something bordering on quackery ;-). Still, as you say, if it works, maybe I can avoid the surgeon's knife for a bit longer!

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  21. I'm thankful that I read your blog and heard about those powerband. I definitely need one too. Will be enquiring about where to buy it. I sure hope it will also work for me. I love the way you write, so I will definitely be coming back for more of your writings.

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  22. Hi Cynthia

    Hope it works for you. As a cynic, I'd hate to be endorsing it yet, but something has definitely happened!

    Thankd for dropping by!

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  23. Geoff
    I must introduce you to my "whole body" dentist - he cured my bad knee by performing some manipulations with my head and crotch whilst placing a cannister of omega oil tablets on my stomach.
    My first wife thought I was having an affair.
    Here's to Rastus and Max

    N

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  24. Nikos:
    Sounds like you were having an affair to me too :-)

    Indeed - Rastus and Max now in heaven so it won't be a Harley they're riding across the celestial skies, will it?

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  25. Geoff

    are your knees still hurting ? 'cause mine sometimes when I go up the stairs. I wish I knew where to buy those magnetic bracelets. I was thinking that if yours didn't work anymore, I could try it out

    bob
    Wet Coast Scootin

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  26. Hi Bob, they're still pretty good actually. Can't say it's the bracelet for certain but it's a big coincidence.

    Mine is an Eken brand (http://www.ekenpowerbands.co.nz/) and here (http://health.ninemsn.com.au/fitness/exercise/7958084/do-power-bands-really-work).

    I'll be hanging on to mine, at least for the time being :-)

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  27. I've heard of those bracelets. Not sure what to make of them. I do agree with you about TV. If TV is an indicator of where we are as a human race... we're in trouble.

    Glad your knees are doing better Geoff. You look good on the Triple - nice shot!

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  28. G'day Mike!
    No, I don't know what to make of it either!

    Agree with your sentiments about TV and the columnist Dave Barry summed it up nicely: "Another possible source of guidance for teenagers is television, but television's message has always been that the need for truth, wisdom and world peace pales by comparison with the need for a toothpaste that offers whiter teeth *and* fresher breath".

    Hope you're being good and taking it easy, my friend!

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  29. Geoff, old timer, have you tried putting the wrist thing on any *other* part of your body yet?

    Anyway, my wife likes magnets for her aches and pains. I've carefully explained that there is no engineering case to be made for them improving health. She still believes, and what's worse, she's begun putting some in my underwear drawer.

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  30. Hi Doug!
    I guess that if I was being boastful, I'd say that I haven't found one big enough. The sad truth is that a concrete injection would probably be a more effective remedy :-)

    As long as your wife isn't using starch and a flatiron on parts of your anatomy rather than your underwear, I'd say that magnets were the easy option so I woudn't complain too much. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about!!!

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  31. So lovely to read this, and the nice comments too. My Mum was killed along with Max and Rastus that day, and I often feel like the only person in the world who remembers them. Thank you so much for mentioning them and for the others that have shared little stories also. Always heart warming to read about them and the memories people have.

    If anyone has any photos that include Mum, could you please contact me? I sorted out a whole box of them in the following days after the funeral, however they somehow got mixed up & have never been seen since. Anything at all would be appreciated. You can email me at stephanie@promofactory.co.nz Thanks in advance :-)

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  32. Stephanie,
    So sorry for the delay in responding - currently out of the country. Sincerest condolences for your loss - I lost my best friend to a motoring accident many years ago. A huge loss for many more people than Max, Rastus and your Mum's family and immediate circle of friends. They are remembered fondly.
    Best wishes,
    Geoff

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