Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why I should probably avoid facebook.

A FB friend posted this today:
It included a link to the website of one "Dr." Llaila Afrika:  I looked at it first, quickly got "fraud" vibes, and went looking for his credentials. There is a listing for an unfindable Anglo Saxon Institute" in England where he says he got a doctorate in Naturopathy and he also claims to be a "metaphysician" and an expert in "medical astrology." Well. I'm a scientist. And I seem to be unable to let junk science go unchallenged. And so, I give you the following exchange, which I managed to grab screen shots of just before he deleted them all (forgive my typos, I was using an iPad):
I did find on-line a page by a guy named Gary Booker who had the same questions about "Dr." Afrika and who requested information about his credentials through the Freedom of Information Act. The District of Columbia's office of the Attorney General provided the following information:

1. Llaila O. Afrika did not submit any evidence of possessing either a doctorate of medicine (MD) or a doctorate of Naturopathy (ND) from any institution.
2. Llaila Afrika attended the Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort, South Carolina and received a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) degree in 1990.
3. Llaila Africa's LPN degree from the Technical College of the Lowcountry appears to be an associates degree. He has completed 64.30 credit hours at that institution.
4. Llaila Afrika indicated having medical experience that includes work at Dr. Otis Williams Chiropractic Clinic from 1990 through the date of his application as an employee and an instructor. He also indicated working for the Bayview Nursing Home from 1990 until the date of his application.
5. Llaila Afrika has no military medical experience indicated on his application.
6. Llaila Afrika was certified by an organization named the "International Board of African Thinkers, Traditional Priest, Priestesses, Healers and Religion, Inc." as an "Expert Holistic Health Consultant." This is as closest that Afrika seems to come to being an actual nutritionist or dietician. His professional experience indicates that he taught at this organization during the same year that he was certified by it.
7. Llaila Afrika has no indication of training as an HIV/AIDS clinician. In addition to the "International Board of African Thinkers, Traditional Priest, Priestesses, Healers and Religion, Inc.," Afrika's addictionology certification comes from Life College School of Chiropractic and the American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders. He acquired this certification in 1996 and it expired in 1997. He is also certified as an Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. Afrika worked in a nursing home.

Booker  concluded, "At best, Llaila Afrika is an accupuncturist that can help you shake an addiction. Nothing in the professional and/or academic history of "Dr. Afrika" indicates that he is qualified to speak on AIDS, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, melanin, and the various other "80 topics" that Afrika "lectures" about."

Look, I have read stats that shown disproportionate rates of diabetes among the African-American community. I wasn't arguing with that. I was arguing with the unsupported notion that it is due to  a genetic inability to handle a diet that NO ONE should be following. I don't like junk science, I don't like fraudulent experts, and I don't like people who parrot absurd notions based solely on their wish that they be true. And most of all, I don't like people resorting to ad hominem attacks on me when their logic won't hold up. I de-friended the guy.  
And trust me when I say that my disdain for quacks knows no racial or geographical boundaries - because I also find the work of "Dr." Robert Young contemptible:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


When I drove back to Logan Airport to leave Massachusetts last Monday, I got forced out of my lane by the flashing blue lights of a cop behind me. Just as that lane diverted onto an exit ramp into Boston. I've not lived in a big city in a while, so the driving was a little hairy for me. Boston drivers are aggressive! I had to wind my way back, and finally found myself in a long series of tunnels.
 Rental car returned and plane boarded, I watched as we headed out over the shore.
I have always been fascinated by the perspective from above the clouds. It seems to me that you could surely sleep on them, drifting in their pillowy embrace.
I loved that I got a bird's eve view of flying into DC.  Passing over the Lincoln Memorial, I thought about Abe Lincoln, perpetually gazing out across the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument.
And Capitol Hill, with the US Capitol building, flanked by the House and Senate, among other things. So much capacity for good there, so much propensity for bad.
The Washington Monument between the two, currently girdled in scaffolding for repairs. When I was a teen, I used to take my younger brothers and sister into the city to see these monuments, along with the many Smithsonian museums. It's not a bad town to have as your playground.
By the Tidal basin, the Jefferson Memorial. From the front steps, you can see the White House. Maybe wave at the Obamas. And hopefully not be too self-conscious about the fact that your arms are not as buff as Michelle's.
I was less pleased with my delayed flight out of DC. Stuck at a gate that had many restaurants but only one that served wine. Why? Where is the sense in this? What kind of cruel, cold world... oh, okay. Small as problems go. But tell that to everyone who stood in line for a long, long time to get one of the too-few tables. When they asked if there was anyone alone who would share a table, I shot my hand into the air. So while Mr. Unsociable Macbook stared at his screen and drank a beer, I had a glass of pinot grigio and a bowl of lobster bisque and people-watched.
And thought about what my next adventure would be. I've given up predicting what life will throw my way, and just trust that it will be interesting.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wait a minute, man.

Just down the road from where my friend is staying is Minute Man National Park, where the Revolutionary War began in 1775.  British soldiers marched this Battle Road Trail on their way from Boston to Concord and back. There are markers along the way giving distances to Boston Harbor.
Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln was a gathering place for local folks. The couple who ran the tavern and farm lost the first five of their thirteen children to diptheria. On one of my walks, there was a huge group of school kids listening to someone dressed in period costume. I'm guessing they didn't pass along that particular grim factoid. The highlight of the talk, judging from the happy shrieks, was the firing of a musket.
I walked with my friend Sunday evening after we got back from Cape Cod. He wanted to show me some of the more interesting features, like this multi-story fireplace. The house around it is gone, but you can see where it opened into rooms on different floors of the building.
 Where the Battle Road trail passes through wetland, a boardwalk protects the marsh.
We passed a clump of Mayapples and I checked to see if any of them had fruit. Not yet, but I was pleased to see the flowers hidden beneath the umbrella-like leaves.
We argued some about what this old structure might be.  It has two sections and I took this photo standing at the end of an earthen ramp that lead up to it via a forked entrance. The house belonged Job and Joshua Brooks and there was a slaughterhouse and tannery nearby, but I don't know if this was related to either of those.
The next morning I went back and walked some more on my own while my friend went to work.  I took the Vernal Pond Trail back into the woods to this little creek.
 Along the way, I spotted a nearly-hidden Jack-in-the-Pulpit. I find them endearing.
Back on the Battle Road trail, this time in the other direction. There were several of these signs with the oddly vague "near here." Next to the rock? Way back in the woods? What counts as "near here?" Every man between the ages of 16 and 60 in colonial Massachusetts was required to have a gun and train as part of the militia, to help the British fight against "enemies" (in this case the French and Native Americans). A smaller group of volunteer forces were trained much more intensively to be able to mobilize "at a minute's notice." (A complete aside - my old flame from Kentucky is part of a Joint Forces rapid response unit in the Reserves, required to be ready to deploy in 72 hours when called - sort of a modern day version.) These Minute Men were younger and enthusiastically non-Loyalist. According to the signs, the column of British troops walked along the road, with flankers on either side. The Minute Men would attack from the woods and fields.
But it's peaceful here now and I happily wandered along the trail for a couple of hours. I liked this interracial tree couple.
Some of the old buildings were less maintained than others. This shed has a healthy crop of Virginia creeper vines climbing it.
All told I walked 5.8 miles that Monday morning. I may or may not have gotten lost. Repeatedly. But finally, I made my way back to the rental car to make the drive to Logan airport.

We interrupt the travelogue for a public service announcement:

On Cape Cod, bicyclists must allow room for Ferrari drivers.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cape Cod weekend.

On Saturday morning, I wanted to go to the Cape. We walked around Woods Hole first and had a look at the Aquarium there. I spent 6 weeks in East Falmouth one summer as a kid, so we headed there next to look around, and then up the coast to Eastham.
We decided to walk a trail on the National Seashore, along a marsh. Parts of the trail were blocked off, but we just ducked under the warning tape and kept going.
Part of the trail took us past the dunes, and was covered with such thick sand that it was hard to walk on. Like wading through mud.
 Eventually the trail took us out to the beach, by a channel.
 Again, the water was cold. The seagull didn't seem to mind, though.
 We hiked for miles. But it felt great to be walking and breathing in the salt air.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the Optimist Cafe in Yarmouth. Good coffee and a spinach and potato frittata for me. Then we would our way along the bay, stopping a couple of places to look around.
And then off the Cape and into Plymouth, with a most underwhelming Plymouth Rock.  Which has been repeatedly dropped and broken and badly repaired.Now it lives in a cage, looking a little poorly.
We walked around the town and through Town Brook park. I didn't even notice the little cygnet behind the swan on the left until I loaded the photo onto my computer.
Plymouth is the home of the oldest continuous church in New England, First Parish, a Unitarian-Universalist church. It was founded by a group from England who formed in 1606 and then sailed over on the Mayflower in 1620 for religious freedom.
It was time for a cold beer. We went to the Plimoth Grist Mill. I seriously wanted to bring this glass home with me.
The grist mill is a reproduction, but even so sitting out on the deck was pleasant.
Afterwards we headed back up to Concord for the evening. Only one more day left of the trip - I need to travel more often.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exploring the Massachusetts coast.

After breakfast, I headed out on a solo adventure. The first place I landed was Marblehead. "Birthplace of the American Navy." Because, why not? I just wanted to get to the ocean.
The beach is rocky and I spent some time looking around for a few rocks to bring home. I actually bought nothing on this trip other than food.
Let me just say that the waters of the Atlantic are freaking cold up this way. I'm used to the Southeast coast, with its bathwater temperatures. But that didn't stop me from kicking off my shoes and wading in. Briefly.
I spent some time watching this seagull working on a crab. When I tried to get closer, he took it in his beak and flew off. Damn, I was going to steal it for myself.
An unusual lighthouse, I thought, in Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. It was built in 1896.
I climbed around on the rocks for a while, just enjoying being out in the salty air.
My drive up the coast took me past this harbor. At some point, my friend texted to ask where I was and when I told him I'd seen Marblehead, he mentioned that he wanted to go to Gloucester. I said I was already headed that way (and no, I did NOT text this while driving), and he answered, "Not fair!"
Nevertheless, I headed on up to Gloucester on Cape Ann, first chartered as an English settlement in 1623. Apparently conditions were tough and everyone decamped to Salem (which I also drove through) and the place was re-populated a couple decades later. I looked it up, this 1874 building in Rocky Neck is the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory. They developed a copper paint to help prevent barnacles from adhering to the bottoms of boats.
There are channels under which smaller boats can pass into the harbors.
On the harbor waterfront downtown are two statues. The more famous is the Fisherman's Memorial, of a man at a ship's wheel, dedicated to "They that go down to the sea in ships," the 10,000 fishermen who've died at sea. But I liked the poignant Fisherman's Wives Memorial, which speaks to the losses of the families.
The next town over, in an area which used to be called Sandy Bay, was Rockport. It's a peninsula, with the Atlantic on three sides. I got out and walked along Bearskin Neck, with a harbor and old fishing and lobstering shacks that are now mostly shops.
I looked around some, but only went into the candy store to buy a few chocolate truffles to take back to the hotel to share.
I planned to wander a bit and then head out to find a place that had clam strips, but then I was brought up short by this place. I went in as if pulled by a magnet.  Inside was a sign advertising "hot boiled lobsters" for $12.95.  The man behind the counter looked like central casting had sent him - big guy with a huge bushy beard and a friendly smile. He had a pile of 1 1/4 pound lobsters and I told him I wanted one to eat there. As he sorted through, he said, "One bigger one got in here by mistake but I'll give it to you for the same price. You won't be offended by that, will you?" I said, "I think I'll get over it!"
As I carried the 2-pound lobster out to the deck by the water, another customer said, "Wow, that's a big lobster!" Yes it was, and it was calling my name.  I sat in the sun dipping the claw meat into the drawn butter and entered a state of nirvana.
Then, finally, away from the coast and back to Concord for the night. Next up, the weekend trip.