Leaving on a jet plane...

Today, I'm winging my way to sunny Las Vegas. Yes, in the middle of summer, when southern Nevada's weather is most like an oven, I will be there. The reason? I'll be doing a workshop and a panel with fellow supporters of science-based medicine at The Amazing Meeting.

I don't know how many of my readers will be there, but if you're there and see me hanging out at the Del Mar or in the hall between sessions, feel free to introduce yourself. For everyone else, I guess we'll have to consider this an open thread. Don't worry. I plan on doing some blogging while I'm away, but it might be more sporadic and—dare I say it?—brief than usual.

More like this

Damn, I wish I was there too.

There was a strong editorial in my local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News:

Mercury News editorial: California must improve vaccination rates


In the comments, from a name I don't recognize:

"Everyone here should know that Anne Dachel is the media editor for "Age of Autism", a shameless antivaccine crank blog. It is essentially her job to go around to blogs and repost lists like these - dishonest tripe. Her lies are easy enough to debunk given time and energy, but at this point her name and association alone should be enough to tick everyone off that what she's saying has no basis in reality and can and should be ignored. Thank you, other commentators, for pointing this out. Anne, you should be ashamed of yourself. You are either dishonest or more ignorant than is humanly possible."


I hope this year's TAM is awesome and drama free! It's one of my dreams to go, and I'm really hoping I can do it next year' because after that I will (hopefully) be in school for 4 years with no money to go anywhere. I look forward to everyone's reports!

By TwistBarbie (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

MESSAGE BEGINS---------------------------

Shills and Minions,
I look forward to tossing a few back with of you in the most comfortable of climates. Davos is so awfully chilly, why do we still meet there?

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL
Sooper Uber Omni Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Grand Vitara of Bakersfield, Duke of Del Mar

Transit Broadcast

-----------------------------MESSAGE ENDS

By Glaxxon Pharma… (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Prevagen contains apoaequorin, a protein originally found in jellyfish. It is supposed to improve memory by binding calcium in the brain. It is a large protein comprised of 189 amino acids, so it seems unlikely any significant amount from an oral supplement could be absorbed intact into the bloodstream, and far less likely any could cross the blood brain barrier. Considering that apoaequorin weighs about 21,400 Daltons, calcium weighs 40 Daltons, and apoaequorin can bind three calcium ions, a 10 milligram tablet of apoaequorin should be able to bind about 55 micrograms of calcium, which is an utterly trivial amount. FDA has warned this company about their completely bogus claims.


A Google search returns lots of pseudonymous glowing testimonials for this product, very much like products sold by multi-level marketing schemes. But it's not MLM. It's sold through retail channels, like Walgreen's and CVS. I'd never heard of it until I saw a TV commercial a couple weeks ago. Immediately I was suspicious when they said it was a protein. A protein in an oral supplement? It can't make it into the bloodstream in any significant amount. Proteins like insulin and human growth hormone are given by injection, because they'd be broken down into amino acids if given by the oral route. Even if it got into the bloodstream, it can't get into the brain because it can't cross the blood-brain barrier. And if a foreign protein like one from a jellyfish got into the bloodstream in a significant amount, it would provoke a massive immune system response -- and definitely not a nice response. It would be like injecting ragweed pollen into your bloodstream.

By Mark Thorson (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Prevagen has had 1-2 FDA warnings already. I keep hearing their ads on the radio. Given that this protein is almost certainly pulverized in the stomach and also its size, the odds it even gets to the brain is nil.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Dear Orac and company:

With forecast highs of 104-106F / 40-41 C, do have a great time at the meeting INDOORS. Like the smart people you are. PLEASE be careful.

-btw- I heartily dislike that place and it's not faux morality speaking (from me? Come on!) but I find it a waste land of artifice and tawdriness- UNLESS if you really like gambling or have something meaningful to do there like a conference or a party- there are SO many much more attractive places to get drunk, stoned or laid. Even in more forgiving seasons like March or November, when you can actually walk around a little without dropping of heatstroke as the heat wafts from the sidewalks and roadways rendering you languorous or exhausted as well as being already sunblinded - there are ludicrously crappy facsimiles of real places ( NY, Paris, Venice) which remind you that you might be enjoying yourself there instead, as you wish that you weren't here. Wishing that you were anywhere but here. I didn't like the food or the shows or the shopping or the hordes of near-children hungrily milling about on the strip, ogling the wonders of silicon, tattooing and Disney-fied reinforced concrete architecture and fake pirate shows as they passed them.
What I relished most- despite staying in a supposedly posh hotel- was the rental car agency and driving out of town.
The time that I was there in July was a stopover for only a few hours- THANKFULLY- at 11 pm where the outside temp was over 100 and the heat "hit me like a freighttrain" whilst I walked through the jetway door to the airport.
Although I did not experience the melted-asphalt-and-shoe phenomenon, I did live through extreme, unquenchable thirst and unmanageable, floppy hair which are nearly as bad.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

I heartily dislike that place and it’s not faux morality speaking (from me? Come on!) but I find it a waste land of artifice and tawdriness

I've never actually been to Las Vegas, other than a few times to change planes at the airport. Which is enough to see what a bizarre place Vegas is: the faux pyramid on the Strip is visible from one of the airport concourses, and as you are flying out of town you can see the contrast between the lush green of the golf courses and the desert scrub which is the native vegetation (such as it is). As anyone who has been there knows, there are even slot machines in the airport (which I played once just to be able to say I've done it, risking $1 and quitting when my stake reached $2). There are definitely worse places than Las Vegas--I'd say Orlando is worse (almost as hot, much more humid, and not even anywhere near the beach)--but Las Vegas is definitely up there.

Las Vegas is a common jumping off point for touring the national parks of southern Utah (it's about as close as Salt Lake City, and cheap flights into LAS are easier to come by than SLC). Since the crowd I run with has their meetings anywhere but Las Vegas, that would be about the only reason I would leave the airport there. Of course, July is probably not the best time of year for that kind of tour.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Not about that horrid place for reasons pretty much similar to those of Denice. Concur with Eric about Orlando.

BUT I digress and here is what I wanted to post:

I got a post card in the mail recently from a DO/MPH announcing their acceptance of new patients at a nearby office under the auspices of one of the local medical systems, good-sized for my area. The system consists of a hospital, several satellite locations including at least a couple of urgent care sites, as well as labs, clinics and offices, and also a school of nursing.

This was the text of the postcard; I am begrudgingly shielding the guilty:

Dr. X sees patients of all ages. s/he provides comprehensive care focusing on wellness by integrating primary and osteopathic care. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment can be used to diagnose and treat such conditions as: [bulleted list follows but condensed for space] sports injuries, infant issues (ie. feeding difficulties, torticullis, colic), recurrent ear infections in children, pregnancy-related pain; postpartum pain; headaches, back and neck pain, sinus disorders, and ASTHMA !!!! (caps and exclamations mine)

WTF?? I have read Orac and his friend about quackademic medicine infiltration so this shouldn't have surprised me but somehow the appearance of an explicit link to chiroquackty by another name surprised me--I thought the DO's were trying to escape this, or are they reverting?

Or am I reading too much into it?

By brewandferment (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

The American Astronomical Society once held a meeting in Las Vegas, taking advantage of the cheap hotel rooms.

Apparently it was a disaster for the casino, since essentially no one wanted to gamble. Too much respect for the laws of probability, I suppose. That, and the fact that the majority of the members are either tightwad academics or penniless job-seeking grad students.

It does look like a workshop for the sartorially challenged, though, a group of which I am a proud member.

By palindrom (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

I heartily dislike that place and it’s not faux morality speaking (from me? Come on!) but I find it a waste land of artifice and tawdriness

My sentiments exactly. Even the Vegas airport is a sensory nightmare, what with all the blinking howling one-armed bandits.

Eric - I have to disagree with you about Orlando. When I've gone it's generally been in the fall or winter, and it's gorgeous. It's substantially cooler than Nevada (I've not been to Los Vegas, but I've been other places) though you are correct on the humidity. And the water is not from a rapidly vanishing river.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Sigh - LAS Vegas. I went and made them masculine.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Found an odd-looking critter in the dirt, about 2 inches long, with 3 pairs of legs at the front end, brownish, segmented. Any clues as to how to identify?


What I relished most- despite staying in a supposedly posh hotel- was the rental car agency and driving out of town.

Heh. I enjoyed that glowing endorsement, thanks. I have known people to pay huge amounts of money to travel to Vegas from the UK to get married, for reasons I utterly fail to understand. One of these was an otherwise apparently sensible nurse-practitioner working on an ITU. I can understand wanting to go somewhere special to get hitched - I got married in Vienna once myself (a ghastly mistake as it happens, but there you go) - but Vegas? In a concrete jungle in a desert by an ordained Elvis impersonator in a huge fake pyramid? Why?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

I kind of like Las Vegas, in small doses. I was there last year for Thanksgiving and had a pretty good time. The hotel (and theoretically the resturants) were non-smoking, the food was excellent and the show I saw (Cirque) was amazing. It was warm enough to go swimming. And then it was time to go home!

brewandferment@10: This person was advertising themselves as a DO/MPH? If MPH means Master of Public Health (as it usually does) that is very weird, since an MPH isn't a medical degree. From what I've learned in my MPH program thus far, usually you get an MPH to work with groups of people, not provide individual care. It's kind of like saying you're a DO/MBA; it's not super relevant to clinical care. The treatment list is super sketchy!

By JustaTech (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

@ Krebiozen:

Thank you for saying that:
Las Vegas is probably the place I disliked more than any other place I have ever been which is saying a lot because I have visited:
- a tropical island which was sinkhole of industrial pollution with swampy areas rife with decaying plants and animals
- a village which hosted a weeklong HIghland folk fest
-.a mountain town which hosted a Norwegian folk dance festival. Although the dancers and musicians were very talented, there is something un-nerving about observing troupes of tall white adults performing long, complicated dance routines perfectly in black woolen clothing in blazing noonday sun and heat at 8000 feet above sea level without tiring at all in a determined fashion like... Vikings with accordions and fiddles.
No wonder they have done so well in the world.
- post-industrial waste lands of the US, UK and Canada.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

May I suggest you try some great hiking at Red Rock Canyon while you're in Las Vegas?

Start in the AM and you'll beat the heat.

The Book of Mormon is also in town at the Smith Center.

The city is more than just the strip.


By Jon Walms (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Three pairs of legs? That's definitely an insect!

By Mark Thorson (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Hi everyone,

Today mark the end of my 6 weeks training & assessment at SAP labs in Montreal and I will know tomorrow if I sign a contract with them (99% chances) or if I get booted out (1%). So far, just about everyone who met me in the company have been outstanding and are very good to me and even the hiring manager is very happy with my performance at work (I have been in his team since the last 2 weeks) and he plan to be very committed to build me a career but the final words will be those of the HR director which I'll meet tomorrow morning.

As far as work conditions goes, I set my schedule with the core hours being from 10am to 3pm but I need to put in (for the moment) 35 hours per week with next week going on to 40 hours. The work itself feel so good that I don't have any problem going over the requirement but they are very flexible regarding appointments outside work or work from {home, out of town, etc...}.

As far as paycheck goes, I'm still on an internship salary but it's freaking huge as I make more money in a week as compared as my monthly salary previously. Bonus point is that I'll get a sizable pay raise next week if I get in.

they offer insurance packages, retirement packages and even an allocation of 300$ per year to get massages and they have a professional massage therapist each week at work. We also get paid lunch every noon by the company (just swipe our card on the card reader). Probably the best company in the world to work in.

all in all, I'm happy, very happy.



Good luck with your meeting tomorrow.

Three pairs of legs? That’s definitely an insect!

Not so fast.

Del Mar? That's a hot-sheet establishment in a sketchy area. I hope that's not where they sent you. And it will be humid, by local standards when you get here. We do have excellent hiking areas from Colorado River trails to low desert to high desert to 10,000 feet high trails in forested areas. And we have slot machines in supermarkets, also.

By German Santanilla (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Have fun at TAM. I've been to a couple and they were great, but I'll never go to another unless it's not in Vegas, or at least not in Vegas in July. Insane heat for this northerner.

By Newcoaster (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

My first trip to Vegas was (many, many) years ago. My good buddy and I flew to LA to see my sister and her two young children. IIRC, the plane tickets were expensive (for us), with a layover in Vegas for three days on the way home. The "strip" was a lot smaller then ( the Sahara, the Stardust and the Thunderbird Hotels with their casinos, with some motor courts an cheap motels intermixed).

Back then, the headliners where Sinatra, his ratpack and some second tier ratpack wannabes.

We hung out at poolside soaking up the rays during the days and then "dressed for dinner" (cocktail dresses, heels, hosiery and the little evening purse (with extra cash for gambing tucked in our bras). There were unsavory looking goons hanging around to inspect your outfits before entering the dining rooms and the casinos and you were barred unless you complied with the fancy dress codes for men and women.

It was garish, and tacky, but in an old 1960s pretentious way and there were low cost $ 2 black jack tables and real one-armed bandits with arms to set off the slots' reels.

The next time I went to Vegas was in 1976 at 6 months into my second pregnancy, where we were comp'ed by a colleague of my husband who was a tour guide, stayed in a high rollers hotel suite.. which was before online airline ticket and hotel reservations purchases and bonus travel miles.

More recently, Vegas has been a good jumping point for our extended road trips into the canyons, on up into the Dakotas (where we managed to catch the Sturges motorcycle rally and then into the Canadian Rockies. One memorable trip was taken in March after an extremely bad winter, to travel to Death Valley, ~ 3 hours outside Vegas to have a delightful stay in a hotel with a natural spring-fed pool and to catch the desert in bloom.

Actually, Denice Walter, my view is different. I've only been to Las Vegas once for a conference, but I kind of liked it because it seemed like the American stereotype I developed growing up taken to extreme: everything too big, too artificial, too glittery, colored. It was a cultural experience. As a foreigner, it was kind of fun. A land for overgrown five year olds.

Of course, living in the U.S. for 14 years now undid much of what I came in expecting, but Las Vegas was still the closest to what I expected the American Dream to look like.

The people in underwear sitting at the machines were kind of sad, though.

And Alain, good luck! Please let us know.

Back then, the headliners where Sinatra, his ratpack and some second tier ratpack wannabes.

We hung out at poolside soaking up the rays during the days....

So, even before the "portable phone" days?

@palindrom #11:

The American Astronomical Society once held a meeting in Las Vegas, taking advantage of the cheap hotel rooms. Apparently it was a disaster for the casino, since essentially no one wanted to gamble.
My father worked for IBM. The casinos hated them when they held conferences in Vegas because the IBMers didn't gamble either.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 09 Jul 2014 #permalink

Narad...that was 10 years before my first trip to Vegas. :-) And, I still don't have a portable/cell phone. I share my husband's and grab the phone to take on the road, when I'm traveling without him.

I'm one of those people who does not feel lost if I don't have instant access to a phone for useless chatter.

I have never been to Vegas for personal reasons, but I have been there numerous times for conferences. The city hosts more professional conferences, workshops, seminars, continuing education courses, etc. than anywhere else I can think of off hand

When you work in a field that is predominantly male, as I do, I suppose it is no big surprise that Vegas has such appeal. It can be fun though, in an undergrad spring break type of way.

The cuisine is absolutely fantastic in Vegas though! The lab I work in is located in a rural midwestern town, so having access to such a wide array of nice dining options is a breath of fresh air.

That, and the fact that the majority of the members are either tightwad academics or penniless job-seeking grad students.

My primary scientific society, the American Geophysical Union, holds its big meeting in San Francisco every year. One of the legends that has grown up around that meeting is that the high-end call girls of San Francisco plan their vacations for that week. Unlike most groups who have conventions at the Moscone Center, AGU attendees are unlikely to be both interested in and able to afford the call girls' services.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Jul 2014 #permalink

I sometimes feel that the alties and woo-meisters I survey are making my job so much the easier:

recently TMR has been hawking its energy conference in which "healers" and mediums will promote their dark arts to parents of kids with ASDs. Similarly, AoA takes ads for products to combat the evil influences of chemtrails. Now Mikey is chattering about how "free energy" would lead to true AGW as he shills his new formulae to counteract heavy metals. Of course, PRN explores a plethora of woo and uber-woo such as energy healing, 9/11 theories and a forthcominhg examination of extra-terrestrial influences promised by the woo-meister in charge.

Why do I say that this is a good thing?
Obviously these promoters will do or say anything to get additional readers and listeners: they are like a television talk show which has run out of legitimate topics and needs to scrap around the refuse heap of magic, superstition and spiritualism to excite its audience. Hopefully this trend will open the eyes of at least a portion of their audiences.

Their "legimate" topics of course aren't legitimate in the least because they rely upon fake research and mis-leading conclusions about real research tarted up with a great steaming dollop of conspiracy mongering
HOWEVER they misrepresent themselves as scientists or as being science-oriented and many of their audience cannot detect the prevarication in this stance:
thus, Teresa Conrick delves into the arcane subtext of immunological research and her efforts are applauded and hailed as meaningful; Mike's research into contaminated natural products is regarded as providing important information that the government wouldn't supply. Gary Null can lull his thralls into belief with tales of his "30 years as a research fellow" at an esteemed facility and his enlightening lectures at scientific conferences BECAUSE they don't know enough to realise that they're being taken for a ride which will eventually require payment.

When alties showcase the more outlandish forms of pseudo-science they risk alienating the people who have accepted them as brave maverick scientists about to ride the cleansing tsunamic wave of paradigm shift, re-organising all science into a new system that more adequately explains the nature of reality. Tossing aliens, chemtrails and ectoplasm into the mix will not reinforce their case as being ground-breaking innovators in science but it may expose their general charlatanry to hopefully a few converts.

Now if only Andy would hold a seance, we'd be set.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Jul 2014 #permalink

I got the job :)

I'm on probation for 3 month (to assess our learning curves) but that's the case of all new hires in just about any company.


Congratulations, Alain!!!

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 11 Jul 2014 #permalink

Well done Alain! I'm happy for you!

@ Alain:

Is this in Montreal or your usual digs?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jul 2014 #permalink

Congrats, Alain!

About water in Las Vegas: They are very proud of the fact that they put back all the water they take out of the Colorado river. (Cleaned, of course). There are a number of springs in the area (where the name comes from) that are used for the ostentatious fountains, but most of the water is used once; grey water goes on the landscaping, it's cleaned in the sewage/sanitation facilities, the aquifer is topped off (it's currently full) and then everything else is sent back to the lake. They can get away with this becasue there isn't any agriculture in Las Vegas, so they're not shipping the water away in the form of vegitation.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 11 Jul 2014 #permalink

Congratulations, Alain!

Alain -Felicitations!

the high-end call girls of San Francisco plan their vacations for that week

"Vacation? I imagine they go to a conference, so it's tax-deductible.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Jul 2014 #permalink

It's in old Montreal actually (111 Duke street) and I rented an apartment 5 minutes from there which include every dream features I wanted (see http://evosqvictoria.com ) but will be available in the last week of august so for now, I'm couching in st-hubert at my coworker's place with some evening on the plateau Mont-royal (with a friend).

At Evo, it's a student residence but 2 floors are for professionals and I'll be living on the 24th floor with a very nice view. I asked my coworker about the price (1200$/month) and they said it was cheap considering 1-: Old Montreal is not cheap, 2-: no internet or cable TV to pay (they're hooked up via fiber-optic internet) and 3-: there's already a staffed gym included (which can be very expensive elsewhere).

They also plan to offer customizable meals plans so in my case, the only thing I'll need to use the kitchen (there's one on every floors) is to make beer on the weekend :)