Afternoon Inquisition

AI: zOMG you totally have to try…

People love to give advice, me especially! I love to give advice. I have a terrible habit of sometimes giving it away when it’s not wanted. It’s something I work hard at not doing, but I still fail.

One reason I work hard at not giving out advice is because I hate getting it. Unless I’m asking for it, from a person in the know, I don’t want it. As well intended as it is, I find it often isn’t relevant or it’s just plain crap. Pregnancy and parenting issues are the worst, but medical issues are not far behind. Even when your situation is only vaguely similar or just slightly different enough for the advice to be totally and completely useless to you, the giver will insist you try their fix/cure/remedy. Or if you tell them you’ve tried it and it didn’t work, they tell you that you probably did it wrong.

“No really, I tried acupuncture to get rid of that smell in the dining room! It didn’t work!”

What is the worst or most woo-y advice you’ve ever been given? How do you deal with getting terrible advice, especially when it’s woo related?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. People suggest Zicam to me all the time during the winter. I usually have to hold my tongue to keep from telling them where they should put their Zicam.

  2. The worst things are always god related in my experience.

    The most twilight zoney advise was after breaking up with an ex I was told that it was ok because it was part of god’s grand plan and that I would find a man who would be a good father to my children. And what I should really do is try to hit on some of the men who already have kids.

    Now the part where this gets really strange is that the entire reason my ex and I split was I didn’t ever ever want to have children and he changed his mind and now did. And I’d JUST finished telling this person that.

    With relatives who have cancer I’m hearing this whole god’s grand plan and “give the cancer up to god” (or jesus) and I’m mostly hurt but sometimes I’m just confused.

    So I should personally go in an cut it out and then slap the hunk of defective tissue down on the altar of jesus. Or maybe I don’t have to do it I just have to ask the doctors for the hunk of cells to give to god. And then I can manage to have these great mental images which aren’t accurate but make me laugh of walking into a church and during communion going up and tossing the wad into the cup, because that is jesus right?

  3. My cat’s breeder just recommended a homeopathic remedy to calm my little monster down. Massively diluted flower scents are not going to slow a hurricane of violence!

  4. @loudlyquiet: If we’re including psychological advice, people suggesting prayer to get over my father’s death and telling me that I can relax because he’s in heaven are the worst woo woo advice I’ve ever had.

  5. When I was in high school, I worked for a TV repair shop. My boss had a friend who hung around the shop all the time. He was the sort who jumped on every fad bandwagon that came along. One day, he was going on about the dangers of wristwatches and advising us to stop wearing them. Apparently, they interfere with your body’s “energy field”.

    He demonstrated this with the arm-pull-down strength test. This was the first time I’d heard of it but it seemed a bit fishy even then. He tested my boss first: once with the watch on, once with it set aside and out of range of his “energy field”. Sure enough, the test showed more strength with the watch off.

    Then came my turn. While I was wearing the watch, he was able to pull down my arm easily. Big surprise there: a grown man was able to deflect the outstretched arm of a scrawny teenager. I then took my watch off. This time, he was unable to pull my arm down. Amazing!

    As he started in on his “see, that proves it” ramble, I held up my other hand, still holding my watch. He waffled on about how that didn’t count because of a, b and c but the damage was done. I’d learned how easy it was for even adults to fool themselves and my boss got a good laugh at his friend’s expense.

  6. I adore my female friends, I do, but their reliance on astrology is sometimes worrying. I have, on more than one occasion, been instructed to check my horoscope, or been given advice or encouragement using astrology, and … yeah. It takes effort not to laugh in their faces. Generally I just nod and act like I’m interested, and then run into the bathroom and LOL into the running sink water. Unless someone has a website to help debunk this crap, I don’t know what else to do, and I think it’s a pretty minor woo to believe in, anyway.

    I’ve also gotten many recommendations to take Zicam and similar. I just lol at them and tell them no thanks.

  7. Years ago, after my father died, a coworker told me something that she said someone else had told her after her mother died that really helped her — that her mother was now in a place so wonderful, so glorious, that even if she could come back, she wouldn’t want to.

    I can’t actually think of a worse thing to tell someone grieving: that the person who died wouldn’t want to come back to see them.

  8. I hurt my back last year and was out for a couple of days and was hobbling around for a week or so after that. Everyone and their talking dog told me to go to a chiropracter. Usually I explained that I didn’t trust chiropracters and sometimes I told them that I thought they were dangerous.

  9. I have a friend who sells something called Juice Plus or something like that. It consists of rather expensive supplements, which I don’t even have the budget for. She’s always talking about how much healthier they are since taking them, but their family gets sick much more frequently than mine does.

  10. The number of people who have assured me that acupuncture, homeopathy, or NAET is a sure-fire cure for severe food allergies horrifies me beyond belief; the number of people who will get really nasty and belligerent when someone who’s experienced acute anaphylaxis politely declines to trust her life to their pet theories, even more so.

  11. Having a young child, I have gotten lots of advice from everyone. My mother-in-law told me not to take the baby outside on a windy day because the wind will steal his breath. I have no idea what that means or how it is possible. I thought maybe that really cold air is bad for a baby’s lungs, but no; she meant that the wind will literally suck the air out of a baby’s lungs and suffocate him.

    My mother-in-law is also an RN.

  12. When dealing with a family member with a serious mental illness, I was given the phone number of a “natural healer” who could help. I at first wanted to rant, “do you think I have time to waste investigating this dead end?” The person had called the natural healer and shared information and said “he’s waiting for you to call”.

    I was so angry, but I held it. I had to take a moment to compose myself and remember this person was trying to be helpful. I simply explained that our family believed in traditional medicine and that was what we were planning on using, even though traditional medicine did not have a lot to offer for this type of illness.

    Things worked out well, and I kept a friend that has been a source of a lot of good advice…and at one time some very bad advice.

  13. My parents were into copper bracelets for magnet therapy for a while. When they suggested I get one, I pointed out that copper isn’t ferromagnetic, and thus contributes no magnetic field of its own, and also only very weakly interacts with magnetic fields at all.

    Fast forward a few months, they’re still into copper bracelets for what ails them, and my mom points out that the copper is absorbed through the skin and helps their arthritis, and they can tell the difference.

    I don’t have the heart to argue if it makes them feel better and isn’t actively detrimental to their health.

  14. The night after my hysterectomy, a nurse’s aide came into my hospital room and told me that I wouldn’t have had to have the surgery if I’d used aromatherapy. She was lucky that I was doped up on painkillers and couldn’t muster up the energy to respond. My doctor was not amused.

    Oh, and the Biophysicist’s mother is distressed that we have cats. She warned him that they sneak into one’s bed at night and steal one’s breath. Ours prefer to sleep on our feet, which is rather nice in this weather.

  15. One of my friends gives me some silly weight-loss tips. She’s the host of our bi-weekly D&D games, and we’re both trying to lose weight, along with her husband (and everyone else in the group since New Year’s), but we get to sort of take off every two weeks. Anyway, I studied a bit of cellular biology in college. I’m certainly not an expert, but I know woo when I hear it. Last week she told me that cayenne pepper will “boost metabolism”. While that may be technically true, I doubt it boosts it enough to actually make a noticeable difference in weight loss. So I had a glass of lemonade (which I usually love because she’ll put orange or lime or something in it), and it tasted really weird. I didn’t want to offend her, so I drank a whole glass. Then I found out that she put cayenne pepper in the lemonade. I normally drink tons of it when she makes it, so I had to come up with some excuse so I didn’t offend her. I told her that even though I was “off” my diet, I wanted to limit my sugar, but my fear is that next time she’ll make the same disgusting thing, but using Splenda instead. It’s almost easier to refute the woo than to tell her that the drink she made tasted bad.

  16. @telophase: Yup. The things that people say to one another when someone has died make me cringe and want to Murder. In the face. With bears. The things people say to one another when someone has died makes my brain grow nerves that are made of fire. And because I can’t shoot my Brian fire out of my eyes at the offending person, that fire consumes my mind.

  17. @kittynh: I tend to respond to people like that with;

    “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.”

    If they have a response, it’s usually about how Big Pharma is conspiring to keep us sick, which is easy to dismantle with basic economics.

  18. One of my co-workers is a Astrology nit and is constantly telling me to avoid working on anything to do with technology or communications while Mercury is in retrograde.

    Since we’re both software developers working on Internet software this advice would basically have us down tools for two weeks every four months.

    Actually maybe there is something to this Astrology thing after all!?!

  19. @marilove: I hate when I’m having an argument with someone, that they pull out the excuse, “You know what? We’re not communicating because Mercury must be in retrograde. Let’s have this discussion at another time.”

    I used to groan and shrug when they did that… Until I got a astronomy app for my mobile phone! “Uh, gee. It seems ol’ Mercury has been out of retro for two days now. What heavenly body do you want to check next as a possible excuse?”

  20. A few years ago I took a medication that caused me to get carsick very easily. I’ve always been prone to it, but I was getting it even on very short car trips. I just took some OTC carsick pills and that worked just fine. Then and in-law of my in-law heard about it and told me to try those “acupressure” wrist bands, even though I had already solved the problem with the OTC pills. I just told her that I was happy with the method I was already using.

  21. @DominEditrix: Cats stealing your breath? That’s madness.

    It’s a hideous little monster that lives in your house’s walls that does that. The cat is trying to protect you. Being woken up with your cat standing over you is a good thing; it has just scared away the little monster.

    I suggest you set out a floor fan with metal blades the monster can be thrown into.

  22. My mother in law was an RN. WAS. She was fired for sleeping on the job. She’s also a hypochondriac, and gives me “great” advice for my many real ailments (luckily by phone, as she lives 12 hours away).

    Most memorable was the gift of a book on vinegar, and how daily doses will cure almost anything.
    She has also sent me ginger candy and alternative sweeteners. And flavored teas and frozen meat after we told I drink only one flavor of tea and didn’t eat meat.
    I think you sense a pattern here…

    re: pregnancy, I always liked the saying, “No one gets more unsolicited advice than a pregnant woman…unless it’s a new mother!”

  23. I have a threeway tie, myself. Astrology/psychics (my mother in law and to a lesser degree my wife are both True Believers) and they advocate for them. The religion line (“You should let go and let God”, “It’s God’s Will” etc etc) from family and friends. And chiro/vitamin supplements, also from wife and mother in law. I am seeing a common theme here…

    I generally deal with it by politely ignoring it, particularly with my wife as we’ve already had long discussions about lack of evidence/plausibility. She’s someone who is very rational and skeptical except for about these particular things.

    If someone is persistent I’ll start by saying something like “Well, that’s something to consider” and the next step is pointing out the flaws in their position, again politely.

  24. @Marilove, what’s worse is when you feel *guilty* about throwing away the woo-vingar book for a year. :(

    As for cats…My great-grandpa took away (killed?) the family cat after little grandma found it sleeping on baby Peg’s chest. It was *gasp* drawing the breath from her body! “And we never saw that cat ever again.”

    I would venture to guess tiny infants have died from warmth loving cats finding the worst possible sleeping spot. Thus spurring the myth.

  25. Something about the blooood of Jebuzzz cleaning up all my messes.

    And you all might be surprised to know how popular horse chiropractic has become. My wife is a horse owner who has had this woo recommended to her many times over the past few years.

  26. Back in the early 00’s, when I was pretty much unemployed, I saw ads in the paper in what was MLM’s. It didn’t take me long to understand I was losing money. :-(. To quote a kid’s movie, when you’re already unemployed, and start losing money-“That’s not good!”

  27. I am feeling generous today. So, I am going to share some advice I recently received from a family member that is going to make you all rich. Go buy property in the Sahara Desert! Why do you ask? Because desert property is really cheap right now. How is that going to make you rich? Well you see, in 2012 there will be a magnetic pole shift. This will cause the Sahara Desert to receive lots of rain and many lakes will form. Soon, you will have lake shore property worth millions of dollars!

  28. I worked for a man who would believe (and buy) anything, as long as it was “alternative.”

    When his dog got cancer, he hired a woman to do some kind of “color light” therapy. It freaked the dog out completely, who ran into the office where I was working, pursued by this woman with flashlights with colored plastic over the lenses. The poor thing cowered while the woman waved the flashlights over him.

    Finally, the dog received chemotherapy, and eventually died, and the man is convinced to this day the chemo is what killed him.

  29. @Skept-artist:

    Yeah, my favorite is “everything happens for a reason”. Really? You think there’s a super-swell reason X got cancer, went through tortuous chemo, and died in pain anyway? Oh do go on! You’re totally making me feel better!

  30. @marilove: Woo, Leos unite!

    I actually had someone ask me my sign recently. I replied ‘Fire Tiger’ (as I am a Fire Tiger in the Chinese zodiac). It did open a discussion into the myriad of different astrological schools, and how horoscopes today are laughable compared to the lengths gone to to make one in past times.

  31. @cypressgreen: My grandmother had a rash on her cheek and was trying to treat it with apple cider vinegar, but it kept getting worse. Thankfully, she took my advice and treated it with an OTC antifungal. It amazingly cleared up in just a few days.

  32. I used to hang with a vegan crust punk crowd sometimes and it amazed me what those dudes would do to avoid taking medicine.

    For example, instead of taking anti-biotics for an ear infection, pour a lukewarm tea into your ear. For weeks. Even when you stop being able to hear out of that ear.

    Again: treating a bacterial infection with warm water infused with organic material.

  33. My cousin suggested that if I didn’t go to church and pray my pregnancy wouldn’t be successful. I responded with “Really? It didn’t help the first two times.” Since I’m now 8 months pregnant I have to conclude that not praying works better than praying.

    @jtradke: There is a girl that I work with who says that about everything. One day I will punch her in the face. I really will.

  34. Damn, I’m so glad I’m an a-social person and generally converse with smart people, cause I can’t recall anything approaching the levels of stupid relayed above.

    I’m so wanting to use fractally wrong in a sentence one day…

  35. @marilove: Me to, apparently.

    @Pinkbunny: Sometimes I wish someone would spout something that stupid just so I can unload. I’ve always wanted to say, I’m so sorry for the superstitions and delusions impacting your life, I truly hope you get over them soon.

  36. I once had homeopathic medicine recommended to me…for my DOG. Yes, one friend of mine thought my dog should see a homeopathic vet. I calmly explained that my dog did just fine with the antibiotics, vaccines, and actual veterinary medicine he’s getting. I’d really hate to see what a neutering would look like without antibiotics and painkillers.

    Another friend of mine has this twitter horoscope, which just sounds frakking hilarious to me. She keeps telling me I should check it every day, ’cause it “totally helped [her] life.” Other than that, most people know me as Mr. science with tons of random knowledge, so they generally ask me about alt-med crap instead of recommending them to me.

  37. I was taking a life drawing class a couple years ago. One of the models bought into every form of woo imaginable, anti-fluoridation, anti-vaccine (not autism woo that I know of, Big Pharma conspiracy), naturopathy, vegan raw foodism (making rational vegans look bad), antiperspirants caused my mom’s cancer (wasn’t even breast cancer but colon cancer), promoting “natural contraception” which is apparently just a fancied up version of the rhythm method and likely about as effective.

    This was before I got actively involved in skepticism or had even heard of skeptical blogs or podcasts but I was already skeptical of alt med being a science geek. Even another artist in the group who is a massage therapist who believes in chiropractic and supplement woo thought she was nuts.

  38. @telophase: But that so succinctly demonstrates why the dead don’t ever come back – They don’t want too!

    Also, doesn’t that mean Jesus was kind of a douche to Lazarus? “That was a long painful dying, but totally worth it…this place rocks! Wait, what, I’ve got to go back? Nooooo!”

  39. I have suffered with migraines since I was about 12. I’m currently using triptans, and they are amazing, I can actually have a normal life now.

    But you wouldn’t believe the shit people tell me. “You should go to the chiropractor and get an adjustment” Are you kidding? I’m in the worst pain of my life, the last thing I would want is some idiot whipping my spine and neck around!

    I think the problem is that people simply do not understand what a migraine headache is and how it differs from other types of headache. A lot of people seem concerned that I’ll become addicted to triptans. No matter how many times I explain that they aren’t a pain medication, people still tell me to be careful not to become a junkie.

  40. @marilove: A Leo, huh? Is that with correction for precession? ;-)

    The one where I really had to keep my mouth shut was with my (now ex) bf’s mother. She insisted on giving me a small bit of her very expensive alt med cream(probably homeopathic, I don’t even remember) for a rather painful shoulder injury. My bf had already given me the ix-nay on the alt-med-ay with her… so I had to just take it and say thank you.

  41. I’m going to really stretch the definition of woo here to include macho mystique. The worst for me was “join the army, it’ll give you discipline and direction.” There’s a difference between discipline and direction and disciplined and directed.

  42. My ex-wife is in training to be a homeopath. She has harrangued me many times to take these remedies of hers. I recently made what I thought was a funny comment on the whole thing. I drank her water and the symptoms persisted. My explanation is that clearly the 70% of my body that is water must have remembered my ailment.

    But honestly, my big peeve is astrology. Despite being so obviously stupid, too many of my friends argue that sometimes it’s dead accurate, and as such they’re really hesitant to discredit it.

    One of my favorite things to do to the superstitious is go for dinner and purposely spill the salt, and then tell them all about how bad the luck is if I don’t throw a pinch over my shoulder. I even had a friend wait until I turned my head and then throw some over my shoulder just to be sure.

  43. Oh, and some woo spraying moron once told my parents (who sell “neutraceuticals” that they’re sure will cure everything ever with OMG NO SIDE EFFECTS) that if they bleach their meat it kills toxins.

    Yes, you read that right. Bleach their meat.

    For a few months they were soaking their steaks and eggs and everything in the sink (where toxins NEVER live) with a capful of bleach and a bunch of water. But it was safe, because they used Borax which supposedly broke down to just salt and water.

    I’ve never heard this woo uttered by anyone, but Borax is sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Na2B4O7 • 10H2O) and releases hydrogen peroxide. I’m assuming my folks figured that without all the Peroxide, all you had was water and salt. I don’t know if it damaged their insides or not, but I think they lucked out.

  44. My ex-wife used to tell me to put Vicks VapoRub on my feet and wear wool socks to treat my cold symptoms. Some sort of reflexology woo crossed with “Vicks is actual medicine” ignorance, I guess. She heard it from her grandma, so it must be true. Grandma also said if you put a penny in your shoe you can taste it in your mouth.

    Yeah…. we’re not married any more. Not specifically because of the Vicks advice and my lack of faith in Grandma, but it was one of many contributing factors. Like the time I hid a penny in her shoe for a day to see if she would taste it. Damn, she was pissed!

    I always wanted to ask Grandma why you don’t taste your socks all day long. Flavored socks could have made me a millionaire!

    As for what I do when offered woo-based advice, I tend to usually clam up and pretend to take it under advisement. I tend to not be the confrontational type, especially when they are genuinely well intentioned with their advice. However, I’ve been re-listening to Tim Minchin’s STORM lately, and I think a factual smack-down does have its place now and again.

  45. Dude…I don’t even know where to start. My ex-boss who told me to see her chiropractor who could cure lupus? My beloved sister, the nurse, who still sends me copper bracelets (sometimes with magnets!)? Nahhh, those are both well-intentioned.

    The worst was The Princess. My ex-husband had\has a harem of lesbians (long story) and the The Princess has been chief among them since before he and I were married. We spent our honeymoon with her at her house. (longer story) The Princess and I hate each other to the point of hissing. My beloved ex-huband thinks it’s because of him. Which is amusing and only partially true.

    It is actually because The Princess sells and swears by homepathy, knows when Mercury is in retrograde, and will only feed her dogs a raw food diet – and my poor, befuddled ex buys into every bit of woo she’s slinging, no matter what evidence anybody provides to counter it.

    So every time I got sick, and I get sick a lot, the Princess would send some ludicrous potion to my ex that was supposed to cure me. And when I (oddly) didn’t get better, somehow the fault was mine.

    We’ve been divorced for a decade now and that STILL sticks in my craw.

  46. Actually, I do get some advice that I’d rather not get. Racial woo.

    A woman I was interviewing was showing me her incredible wilderness-like yard, which had a great variety of trees, cacti and lovely wild flowers, which I can identify owing to previous work in biology.

    “You’re Native American? Ohhhh… I wondered why you were so wise about herbs. You should start a *real* herbal business.”

    I have also been advised to never cut my hair (it causes a weak spirit and besides it’s so beautiful and black); never marry a white guy; carry crystals because they’re from “your culture”; and feed my baby solid food from day one “the way the Indians did it.”

  47. @delphi_ote:

    Let me guess. Bach Flower Remedies?

    Re: their placebo properties: They have a placebo effect on the pet owner, which is why they are recommended for behavior problems and other “fuzzy” conditions. Never seems to work on, oh, say, broken legs, for example.

  48. @suneray:

    Ugh. That is so annoying. I wouldn’t want to dignify the 2012’er with a reply, but I am compelled to say that even if that was true, your property could just as easily be at the bottom of the lake! But it won’t be! It will be in the desert! Because the world isn’t going to shift! ::head esplodes::

  49. My most frustrating bit of advice wasn’t woo-related. It was Thanksgiving and I was 1-year into a protracted divorce. Two of my (younger) cousins were very pregnant. So my grandmother says to me out of the blue, “You need to find a man and have a baby!”
    I said, “Do you mind if I get divorced first?”
    And I’m the asshole.

  50. Worst advice that I ever got was not woo-related either, but it made me so stabby!! The countless people who told me to “relax” and I’d get pregnant, or the related “just don’t think about it”. My mom used the relax line and I snapped (about 2-3 years into infertility treatments). I said that we had a medical problem that science hasn’t identified yet, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I asked her if she “relaxes” her diabetes would go away.
    Also, now that hubby and I have built our family through adoption and are thrilled to bits with our son, we still encounter morons. The people who say, “now you’ll get pregnant” or the worst, “now you’ll have one of your own”. Needless to say, these conversations ALWAYS take place in front of my son. He’s too young to get it now, but not for long! Walk away or I will kill you.

  51. @CanadaLes:

    I have to say, I’m not sure which was worse for me – the condescending “advice” crap that I got while going through fertility treatments or the pep talks after miscarriages.

    Fertility: I had a friend tell me that since we bought a house, I’d finally get pregnant because my body was just waiting for the right time. Awwww…. that’s sweet. And bodies work that way… you know, like that cheerleader who used to live down the street before her dad kicked her out of the house after finding out she was pregnant. She lives in a shelter now with her twins after her drug-addict boyfriend tried to shoot her. Her body is smart!

    Miscarriage: At least you can get pregnant! Because it’s important just to GET pregnant… after that it’s just gravy. Who needs a live birth anyway? Even better than “God has his reasons” was that my husband wouldn’t have to go through the pain of miscarriage if he didn’t marry a heathen.

  52. A number of people at work were trying to get me into “the secret.” Apparently the law of attraction would have avoided my husband’s lay-off and would have helped me get pregnant.

  53. During one (thankfully successful) pregnancy, I had placenta previa–a condition where the placenta inconveniently attaches over the cervix. If it gets torn or detached, say, during labor and delivery, everyone dies in a river of blood.

    Members of the Natural Childbirth Cult tried to convince me to refuse to schedule a c-section and instead labor at home until I started to hemorrhage. One person suggested that if I gave birth in water, I wouldn’t bleed.

    I avoided eye contact and quietly backed away…

  54. Kombucha. I swear it started as some kind of a prank and just got way out of control. “Hey look, this tea’s started to grow mould. Should we throw it out? No wait, let’s see what gullible moron we can persuade to drink it!” A friend of mine makes her own and my first thought on seeing her pet bacterial/yeast culture was “OH MY GOD, KILL IT WITH FIRE!”

  55. I don’t get much dumb woo-ey advice. I must just be lucky in my choice of friends/colleagues. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t talk to people much :-). One irritation I occasionally get is when I’m hobbling about with sciatica, which happens a couple of times a year, and someone always suggests getting some exercise/running/cycling etc. Right. Because I’ve only had this problem for the last 25 years and happen to know that exercise always makes it worse. But my actual experience doesn’t count because, hey, exercise is good for you.

  56. For those mentioning the Bach Flower Remedies (ie Rescue Remedy) for your pets, they really do work. That’s because if you read the label carefully you will find that they contain alcohol.

  57. The only people I have actually wanted to kill were the positive thinking brigade who plagued my father when he was dying of cancer. He was riddled with secondary tumours and only weeks away from death, but they kept telling him that he could beat the cancer if only he thought positively.

  58. @Jane Grey: My all-time favorite is when people go on and on and on about getting accupuncture for migraines. Oh it’s sooo relaxing to get needles stuck in your face while listening to soothing music. Then I get to explain that I am fucking terrified of needles and that because of that, accupuncture would likely induce a migraine for me.

  59. A friend on my facebook just posted: “I’m finally okay with Venus being in Vergo!” or … something like that, I can’t remember. What does this shit even mean? I can’t believe people spend that much time considering astrology (and trust me, she takes it VERY seriously).

  60. @Hermia: Sorry to hear about your father’s illness and his passing. I hate when people say someone “lost their battle” with cancer or even that they’re a survivor of cancer. What about simply died of cancer or was cured of cancer? I had a patient the other night (I’m and RN) who told me her friend cured her own lung cancer by eating organic, non-GM foods and thinking positively. Then I mentioned that my aunt died of lung cancer at age 34 within six weeks of diagnosis and didn’t have the luxury of eating or thinking straight, for that matter, because of the pain. (You know there’s a problem when your aunt is introducing you to your own sister). I hope that woman starts thinking about the stuff she says before spouting crap like that.

  61. @Elyse: Yeah, I know, that’s why homeless crackwhores never get pregnant and every baby born is born into a loving family that wants them..right? It’s how the body works!

  62. @marilove: She was a nurse’s aide; I didn’t catch her name. My doctor was extremely pissed and muttered something about reaming out the head of nursing, so maybe.

    @CanadaLes: Oh, yes, we got the same ‘after you adopt, you’ll get pregnant’ nonsense. And, of course, those moronic ‘bio-kid = “one of your own”, adopted kid does not’ opiners. My ex’s 2nd wife is one of those – she had a baby at 49, so that my ex ‘would have his own child’. [She hoped, I think, that he would abandon our son.] I suspect she doesn’t know that her husband and his sisters are adoptees themselves; I only found out because one of his sisters was searching for her birth mother, so it came up in conversation. It’s not important to my ex – hell, he’s a left-handed artist who was adopted by a left-handed architect who encouraged his drawing – so he doesn’t think about it.

  63. Here’s a related question: Recently, a friend of mine, who is an outspoken atheist, suffered a serious medical condition. He spent nearly two months in hospital, then went to rehab, then back to the hospital and now is finally home. A mutual friend cc:’d me on her email to him, wherein she told him [his wife was collecting his email] she was praying for him. I’m sure that he took it in the spirit it was meant, but I wondered whether I should mention to her that he doesn’t believe in the efficacy of prayer. [There should be a Ms Skeptical Manners for this sort of thing.]

  64. @DominEditrix: I know people have the best intentions when they say crap like that, but I find it really rude to be told, “I’m praying for you.” Fine, pray for me, but why the need to tell me? It makes a LOT of assumptions. It’s discriminatory. No, it’s not on the same level as racism and the like, but it does make the assumption that everyone you meet believes in god, or (more likely) that everyone you meet is a Christian. What if I was a Buddhist?

    It’s obnoxious.

    Normally, though, I just let it pass, unless I know the person, in which case I tell them, “Thanks for the thought, but I don’t believe.”

    I REALLY hate when someone KNOWS I identify (pretty openly) as an atheist, and they still insist on saying “I’m praying for you” or similar. That is quite rude, and generally makes me believe they don’t respect me.

  65. @marilove: I’m pretty sure that most armchair astrologers just make the rules up as they go along, sort of like Calvinball or wine tasting.

    “Oh, Mercury is in retro-vance with Libra. That explains the subtle tang of oak.”

  66. Groan. In no particualr order:

    Religion to solve my “problems”

    Zicam, Airborne, and zinc for colds

    Astrology to foretell my future (Guess what! I’m gonna die someday, just like you, moron!)

    Animal “communicators” have claimed that they could tell me what my pets are thinking. I can tell them that without help. Before eating: “Food!: After eating: “Poop!”

    My deceased relatives are “looking down on me from Heaven” and will be distressed at my atheism. Whatever.

  67. @TMJ:

    Bach Flower Remedies do contain a lot of alcohol, but are supposed to be diluted (something like 4 drops in a pint of water off the top of my head) and only a few drops of the diluted solution are supposed to be given. that isn’t enough alcohol to drug even a tiny dog.

  68. @QuestionAuthority:

    I always joke that I am going to be the first vet-slash-pet psychic. I will make my recommendations and if the client balks, I can say, “But Fluffy says…”
    :: adopts appearance of deep concentration::
    “… she *wants* to be spayed! She of getting an infection or breast cancer or puppies! She says you have plenty on the Visa… No! Mastercard… to pay for it.”

  69. I love yoga but hate the woo. I like increasing my flexibility and giving my core muscles a challenging workout.

    My yoga instructor said in order to lose weight then I should concentrate on breathing solely through my left nostril. I wouldn’t even need to diet or exercise and the weight would come off.

  70. @Glow-Orb:

    I calculated it out at one point, and the “recommended dose” of Bach Flower Remedy for my dog would be the equivalent of about half a beer for me. Might get some small effect if my dog is really a lightweight! There would be cheaper ways to get my dog drunk.

    I did actually tell the dog trainer recommending it that I didn’t buy into homeopathy – he said some people had good results with Bach Flower Remedies and other’s didn’t, and we left it at that.

  71. @Indigo: Aww, I LOVE Kombucha! However, I love it because I like the taste and it has a lot less calories than soft drinks. It does suck when you get to the bottom and accidently swallow a bit of “mushroom.”

    My husband and I tried making it ourself, but it looked too gross and never came out quite as good :-P

  72. I often question astrologers by pointing out that twins, despite being born at pretty much exactly the same time, often have completely different life experiences, almost as if their choices are having the greatest effect on their lives. (Though yes, things like genetics and random chance can also play a big role.)

    I could go on for pages about bad chiropractors – from condemning fluoride, insisting on baby walkers, requiring “adjustments” for infants, claiming to cure everything from infertility to baldness (but mostly stuff that goes away on its own like earaches and tension headaches), and there was one guy who insisted I needed to lower my blood pressure, despite it being only 80/60.

    Actually, I am one of those people who prefers not to take medication unless it’s absolutely necessary, and I will often try natural treatments first – but only those that don’t pose a risk and have been scientifically proven. So I’m perfectly happy to exercise, meditate, modify my diet, have massages, etc….but this makes people think I should accept everything, including one claim that I didn’t need a tetanus shot if I took the right herbs and cleaned up the wound…oh, and she backed her claim up by pointing out that “nobody” died of tetanus anymore because people were cleaner. Um, no ones dies of tetanus because most of them aren’t too stupid to get shot when they step on a nail, some of those who don’t get the shot are lucky enough not to get any of that bacteria in them, and it’s not like you’re going to hear testimonials from the ones who died. (Which also brings me to some of the people who push “unassisted childbirth” which is homebirth with no medical personnel at all. Some claim that it’s safe because the members of their websites and online communities post a small number of maternal and fetal deaths. Um, #1, I’d imagine a lot of women who made a choice that caused the death of their baby wouldn’t want to make it public, and #2, the women who died aren’t going to be posting on or

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