Monday, December 31, 2007

Kinoki Pseudoscience

I was seeing ads for this product on TV during the holidays. Supposedly, these pads detoxify your body through the soles of your feet while you sleep. These days, a claim like that immediately sets off my skeptical alarm bells, especially if it includes the word “detoxify”.

Kinoki has a website, of course, so let’s see the actual claims and the support for them.

How Kinoki Detox Foot Pads® Work
Working quicker than other detox methods and using the natural cleansing power of double distilled bamboo vinegar, Kinoki draws harmful substances out your body. You’ll feel the results right away!

Remove Toxins While You Sleep
Simply place ONE PAD on the SOLE of your FOOT (or a targeted body part such as the shoulder or knee) before going to bed. By morning, the pad will have absorbed toxins accumulated in your body, turning the white pad to a shade from gray to black. Use a fresh pad each night until the color on the pad becomes lighter and lighter when removed in the morning.
Well, the home page doesn’t have much to offer. There’s no obvious reason why putting “double distilled bamboo vinegar” on your foot would “draw harmful substances out of your body”. Your body has a liver and kidneys for that purpose, and they use energy to basically pump waste out of your system. Convincing me that a pad soaked with vinegar will cause those wastes to spontaneously diffuse through my skin is going to take some serious evidence.

But low and behold, there’s a “Clinicals” link at the top of the page. Is it possible that this product has actually been through a clinical trial that proves its effectiveness?

Coming Soon.
I guess that was too much to hope for. They have eight testimonials, of course, but testimonials are easy to obtain whether a product works or not. Maybe the FAQ page will have something useful…

What specific benefits can I expect?
Kinoki Detox Foot Pads may help:
  • Absorb toxins released by the body.
  • Relieve the burden on the immune system.
  • Assist in the natural cleansing of the lymphatic system.
  • Assist in the extraction of toxins from the body.
  • Support normal blood circulation.
  • Assist in the extraction of heavy metals from the body.
  • Improve quality of sleep.
  • Promote vibrant health and wellness
No surprises, really. The list of benefits is vague, at best, and they only say that Kinoki “may” help. If they can find eight people who, by random chance, felt that they received any of these “benefits” after using Kinoki, they’ve got their testimonials, and with such vaguely defined “benefits”, getting those eight people should be a snap, especially when they invoke the all-powerful “ancient Chinese medicine” trope.

This is what we call a “placebo”, folks. If you need to trick your brain to make yourself feel better and you think $20 is a bargain to do that, this is probably a good product for you.

EDIT: There's now a follow-up article.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Major Geekery

On an unrelated note...

Take the Sci fi sounds quizI received 92 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Take the Sci-Fi Movie Quiz canon s5 is

Contrapasso Video

Lord Lorenzo Petrucci made this video at the Kingdom Arts and Sciences event in June 2006, but Blogger only recently made it easy to put up here.

The first movement of the music repeats three times.
1-12Start proper, holding hands, and do a Riverenza grave with the left foot.
13-24Do two Continenze, first to the left and then to the right.
1-12Do two Passi gravi and one Doppio presto, starting with the left foot.
13-24Do two Passo backward, starting with the right foot, and then two Riprese to the right.
25-48Repeat the sequence.
Change to the second movement of the music for three repeats.
1-12Take right hands and do two Passi gravi and one Doppio to the left, starting with the left foot.
13-24Take left hands and do two Passi gravi and one Doppio to the right, starting with the right foot.
25-36Release hands and turn to the left with two Seguiti ordinarii; atthe end bend at the knees a little to perform a meza Riverenza.
37-48Do two more Seguiti ordinarii turning to the right.
1-48 Same as the previous verse except take arms (up to the elbow) instead of hands when turning your partner.
1-12 Take both hands with your partner and do two Passi gravi and one Doppio presto to the left.
13-24 Do two Passi gravi and one Doppio presto back to the right.
25-48 Releasing hands, the lady turns as in the previous two verses, but the man will do four Seguiti flanked: two back and two forward. At the end, turn to stand proper and take hands.
Change to the first movement of the music for two repeats.
1-48Walk forward together doing eight Seguiti ordinarii.
Change to the second movement of the music for three repeats.
1-12Riverenza to your partner.
13-24 Do two Continenze gravi, left then right.
25-48Turn to the left with two Seguiti ordinarii; then do two more Seguiti ordinarii turning to the right.
1-12The man does two Passi gravi, and one Doppio presto forward, starting with the left foot: the lady will do the same backward, starting with the right foot;
13-24The lady will do the same forward, and the man back.
25-48Both do turns with Seguiti ordinarii as before.
1-12The man alone will do the Riverenza with the left foot:
13-24The lady alone will do the Riverenza with the left foot;
25-48The lady will do the two said turns as before. The man will do four Seguiti ordinarii: 2 flanked back, and 2 forward.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas

And a Happy Whatever Holiday you might be celebrating around this time. If you're not celebrating a holiday... well... save it up for whenever your next one rolls around.

Fjorleif shared this little gem with me, and I'm passing it along to all who visit.

And if the embedded YouTube video isn't working, try this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere

I spent a long weekend down in Atlanta for a belated birthday celebration (it's a round number, that's all you need to know), and one of our activities was to visit the Georgia Aquarium. Their ocean tank is really impressive, with a sixty foot long viewing window made of acrylic two feet thick. I managed to snag a couple of pictures with my cell phone camera: not the best tool, but you work with what you have.

The whale shark in the foreground is actually one of their young males, coming in at only fifteen feet in length, if I recall correctly. One of the females -- over twenty feet long -- is following in the background. The aquarium staff say they're hoping their whale sharks will grow to thirty or forty feet in length and even breed, if they're really lucky.

Georgia Aquarium Whale SharkFor a little sense of scale, here's Fjorleif standing in front of the window. The big fish swimming by her is a grouper. According to the staff, the acrylic window does not magnify what you see through it, and the keep a block of the acrylic off to the side so you can verify that for yourself.

Fjorleif at the Big Window

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A New Chain-Letter Scam: The Microsoft Lottery

It's actually not a new scam, it's just the first time I've gotten a chain letter that uses it. This is the “you've won a lottery you didn't even know you entered” scam. We'll rip this one apart piece by piece the way I like to do.
Since this one's not going to ask me to engage in criminal behavior, it opens with an appeal to my generosity instead of my greed. Not that greed isn't going to be a factor, of course.

Reference No:MSW-L/327015002/06
BATCH NO: #414

This entire “return address” is undoubtedly bogus from the first word. While it claims to be an official notice from Microsoft Corporation (a common victim of chain-letter name-dropping), the “From” address of the email is an account. There is no way that an official representative of Microsoft is going to use anything but a email account to send an official communication. On top of that, this header contains WAY more information than a real lottery notice would need; it's an attempt to create a false sense of legitimacy.

Dear Winner,

Microsoft Co-operation Management Worldwide are pleased to inform you today 30th of November, 2007 that you are a winner of our annual MS-WORD LOTTO LOTTERY conducted in Africa being the host of the event for this present year MEGA JACKPOT LOTTO WINNING PROGRAM held on the 14th of November 2007.
Since when has Microsoft ever had any inclination to run a lottery? The scammer is just throwing out buzzwords that make people think of large cash awards, even though such a thing has nothing to do with the way Microsoft does business.

Even if Microsoft were going to conduct a “lottery”, why on Earth would they do it out of Africa? There's no reason for them to operate such a thing from anywhere but their headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Your email address was attached to ticket number 214-056-278 with serial number s/n-01025 and drew the lucky numbers 724-595-62-07-45 and consequently won in the 3rd category.
Just how my email address could get attached to this ticket number is something of a mystery, since I never did anything to acquire such a ticket. In reality, some hacker just stripped my email address off of an email header passing through a server somewhere and sold it along with a bunch of others.

As a result of this , you have therefore been approved for a lump sum payout of US$1,000,000:00 (One million united states dollars) payable in cash credited to file Reference No:MSW-L/327015002/06 . This is from total prize money of US$50,000,000 (Fifty million united states dollars) shared among thirty lucky international winners in this category.
Let the greed part of this scam commence. I get to collect a million dollars! Go me!

All participants were selected through our Microsoft computer ballot system drawn from a collation of frequent internet users all over the world from America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia, as part of International Email Promotions Program, which is conducted annually to encourage the use of internet and computers worldwide.
Microsoft runs this lottery to encourage the use of the internet? Who needs encouragement to use the internet? If they were somehow encouraging the use of a particular Microsoft product, they might have something vaguely resembling a motivation for a prize giveaway. This utterly random money giveaway is absurd, since it does nothing to promote Microsoft’s business.

Your fund (Cashier's cheque) has been insured with your Reference No: MSW-L/327015002/06 and will be ready for delivery but in order for your cheque to be issued and insured in your name and for you to begin your claim you are urgently required to contact Mr.Rob White, Foreign Service Manager, London United Kingdom, With this information .

Email {}
A manager for Microsoft using a Yahoo address to conduct official company business? How can people be foolish enough to fall for the scam at this point? You must have turned your brain off at “one million dollars” if this got past your BS detector.

Please note that this winning is valid for THREE WEEKS and failure to issue claims after this period will automatically void your payment. Remember to quote your ticket number, serial number and lucky number in your future correspondence and most importantly as part of our security protocol you are to quote this security code MSW/AUG/SS06 to the Foreign Service Manager, this is to prevent scam.
Urgent! Urgent! Don’t pause to think! You have to jump on this right away if you want to collect your million dollars!

Congratulations once again from the entire management and staff of Microsoft Corporation to all our lucky winners this year and thank you for being part of this Promotional lottery Program. Our special thanks and gratitude goes to Bill Gates of Microsoft and all his associates for alleviating poverty around the world through this promotion.
A bit more shameless name-dropping combined with another appeal to my charitable side (the irony hits like a cast-iron pan in the back of the skull).


Mrs.Olivia Malik


Past winners.
I find it particularly ironic that whoever sent me this scam forgot to include a bogus list of past winners. Oops! I guess there are no past winners!

This scam is another example of Advance Fee Fraud. If I email this scumbag, he’s going to explain that I need to wire him money to cover a potentially endless series of gift taxes, processing fees, and other expenses that have to be settled before I can collect my “winnings”. He’ll get me to sink thousands of dollars into this if he can, and I’ll never see a penny back.

As usual, a quick Google search is a good way to check the legitimacy of any suspicious email you receive. A search for “MS-WORD LOTTO LOTTERY” will return an assortment of pages describing this scam, but not a single Microsoft page describing a real promotional lottery.

The pool of gullible victims of scams like this must be frighteningly deep, as the scumbag perpetrators continue sending these things out even though the scam has been known for years. Please don’t be one of the people in that pool.