Say what you will about the various social media, there is one thing at which they really excel: providing a brand new platform for the endless circulation of the kind of inane and poorly informed pop ‘wisdom’ that we love so much here on TCA. Just recently, for example, I’ve been sent the same exhortation about five times to sign an Avaaz petition against Bayer for being responsible (via their manufacture and marketing of insecticides called neonicotinoids) for bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Now, while I don’t particularly hold with the use of Bayer’s products, and don’t even particularly like Bayer as a company, this irks and frustrates me. What Avaaz is doing here is piggybacking an agenda on top of an emotionally-charged issue to give the impression that CCD is being caused by one simple mechanism, and that Bayer should be held responsible. As I’ve written before, it is far from being quite that simple.1 Unfortunately, very few people who get the link to the Avaaz petition will know much, if anything, about bee Colony Collapse Disorder, and not bother to take the trouble to research the Avaaz claims. And so the ‘OMG! The Bees Are Dying Sign the Petition’ suggestion will no doubt circulate for another few weeks, etching into people’s minds the notion that Evil Bayer is Killing Bees (supplanting the previously-etched notion in most of those same people’s minds that the culprit was mobile phones).23

Anyhoo, that’s all really just a way of introducing the real subject of today’s post, which is another wonderful social media ‘advice’ epidemic which also concerns honey. Honey and cinnamon, in fact. It’s very lengthy, so I’m not copying it here, but you should really go have a look at it so you can witness the true scale of its stupidity (you can find it linked just about everywhere across the net, so ubiquitous has it become).

Synopsizing, it begins with a warning that ‘Drug companies won’t like this one getting around!’ and goes on to list ways in which the combination of honey and cinnamon will cure EVERYTHING. Well, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

Here are just some of the troubles that you will no longer have if you imbibe and/or smear yourself liberally with honey and cinnamon:

•Heart Disease
•Arthritic pain
•Bladder infections
•Weight gain
•Stomach ailments
•Cancer (oh yes)
•Aging (!)
•Hearing loss.

I’m totally sure the drug companies would be mightily pissed off if there was even a grain of truth in any of it, but there ain’t so they happily continue with their business of converting their piles of cash into cocaine and snorting it off stripper’s tits.4

The long list of cures ends with the folksy signoff: ‘Remember when we were kids? We had toast with real butter and cinnamon sprinkled on it! Re-post!’

Because, you know, we never had any of those problems when we were kids, right? Except for the poor tykes with cancer who obviously didn’t eat their cinnamon toast.

The thing that really ticks me off is the completely undiscriminating way in which this stupid piece of internet diarrhoea is pooped all across the various social media platforms even by those who should know a LOT better. This is the internet, people. It should be the work of moments to find out the bona fides of this gob of banal hogwash.

And moments it takes. Less than thirty seconds of Searching™ turns up the original source of the Cinnamon and Honey gumpf:

That’s right, Space Cadets. The provenance of this piece of 21st Century wisdom is an article published in 1995 by that veritable shining bastion of scientific respectability, The Weekly World News. It’s travelled down almost two decades unscathed. What’s that you say? What other scientific discoveries has WWN delivered up? I’m so glad you asked.

I mean, for fuck’s sake. Who’s going to believe Dick Cheney is a robot? We all know perfectly well that he’s really a lizard!5

  1. As we have seen time and time again here on TCA, human beings just lurve to fall for the most simplistic solutions to complex problems. Our brains shy away from complexity. We are not made to cope with it, and we deal with it badly. []
  2. What’s actually killing bees, my friends, is that voracious, deadly scourge of the planet Earth – human beings. Our demand for cheap honey (and for cheap fruit and flowers and grains and all the plants that the bees rely on to make that honey) is creating a population pressure on the bees that is just not something that they cope with well. We’ve made bees into something they are not, for our own purposes, and while that works to an extent, it is truly not surprising that it is not a sustainable prospect. []
  3. One friend commented to me that surely the fact that Bayer was not necessarily responsible for CCD is irrelevant if they’re doing something environmentally irresponsible – an ‘end-justifies-the-means’ argument, if you will. That’s all well & good – maybe the petition will get one environmentally undesirable substance out of the way BUT the bees will still be dying. It deflects the view of the public away from addressing the actual problems, and so is, in my opinion, doing more harm than good. []
  4. This is a colourful metaphor, intended to provide humour. It is not meant to imply that drug companies make huge swodges of profit at the expense of our health. Because we know that they are all doing it for the love of humankind. []
  5. This QED really is SOOOO much better than I could ever have hoped for. I wish all rubbish of this kind was so easily slapped down. []

I have often said, Faithful Acowlytes, in my many long rants, that if someone provided evidence of some daft contentious claim or other I would, like any good scientest and skeptic, be completely prepared change my mind.

It appears that today is that day.

You may remember my post Hunting Unicorns, in which I talked about my personal path to my current rationalist and skeptical view of the world, and in which I stated that if one wanted to prove the existence of unicorns, then all one need do, is provide the unicorn.

Time Magazine reports that North Korea has finally done so.

Yes, North Korea, a bastion of logical discourse in a world beset by superstition and irrationality, tells us that they have not only confirmed the location of the burial site of the unicorn ridden by King Dongmyeong, the founding father of the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, but that they have reconfirmed it!

The proof is unassailable: the unicorn grave site is indicated by a rock carved with the words ‘Unicorn Lair’. I mean, how much more does anyone want?

Also, Tetherd Cow researchers have uncovered a picture of North Korea’s current Glorious Leader riding a descendant of King Dongmyeong’s wondrous mystical steed:

Let’s see the skeptics refute that, right?


Thanks Atlas!


I think I may have to invent a new Cow category: Completely Useless Objects Created By Advertisers For No Real Purposes Other Than to Increase the Material Amount of STUPID in the World. Yes, a bit cumbersome, I agree, but how else to best classify the ridiculous object pictured above, which was given to Vermilion and her friend on a recent shopping expedition?

Let me detail its physical description for you: it’s a flat round disc, about six inches across and printed on that pliable magnetized plastic which has no practical reason for existence other than for sticking on fridges. The centre black-coloured circle rotates and has a little triangular window cut in it to allow you to ‘reveal’ portions of the text.

So, by rotating to the ‘Orange’ category we see that the Club Orange chocolate is ‘Made with delicious orange pieces covered in smooth bittersweet Club® dark chocolate’:

Rotating to the left of the orange coloured segment we reveal the helpful advice that you can ‘Unwind with this perfect combo: Delicious Club® Orange complemented with a cup of tea’:


You see how I wrote those identical words down and they gave you exactly the same information? Why do you need a little magnetic wheel with the suggestions hidden away out of sight until you turn it to the right position? Does someone, somewhere, actually think that I’m going to stick this to my fridge in case of frightening emergencies?

My God! I have a bar of Club® Peppermint and I’ve completely blanked on how I should enjoy it. Quick – THE WHEEL!!! (Phew, and can I say how glad I am that this ingeniuous rotation mechanism has cunningly hidden the information from the sight of a casual passer-by! Wouldn’t want the wheel-skillz-challenged knowing how to get the best out of their Club®! Am I right?)

All I can think of when I see ridiculous tsotchkes such as this is that, should I ever be inclined to actually buy Club® chocolate, part of whatever they charge me for a chocolate bar is serving to offset the cost of a useless piece of crap that nobody wants, and the wages of the advertising idiots who came up with it.

And just in case anyone from Club® chocolate should ever read this post, I’ve prepared a wheel of my own – with no unnecessary moving parts – to explain how this all works, and what your advertising agency won’t ever reveal to you:

If you like, I can print it on a magnet so you can stick it on your fridge.

In breaking news, Rupert Murdoch, head honcho of one of the world’s largest international corporations said today “Give me another shovel, this hole’s not big enough!”

Haha, I jest, but what he actually said was effectively the same thing, when he tweeted that the people making a representation to British Prime Minister David Cameron over News Corp’s reprehensible hacking of their phones were ‘scumbag celebrities’. Nice one Rupert, that’ll endear you to just about everyone.

But best of all, this Twitter exchange was made:

Commenter: “Scumbags”? And your journalists and executives are what?”

Murdoch: “They don’t get arrested for indecency on major LA highways!1 Or abandon love child’s”

Love child’s? Love child’s? Awesome. The head of one of the biggest news agencies on the planet has no grasp of grammar OR punctuation.

It’s not a crossword puzzle, Mr Murdoch, it’s a leopard. You’re totally fucked.

  1. Oh, but they DO get arrested and charged for other much more serious criminal activities, or perhaps that’s slipped your mind? []

Faithful Acowlytes. I want to speak to you today about loyalty. Oh, no no no – not your loyalty dear friends. I would never call that into question. No, specifically, I’m talking about the mechanism that seems to have become an integral part of pretty much every consumer commodity transaction on the planet: the Loyalty Scheme – or Loyalty Scam, as I prefer to call it, because the concept is essentially a swindle. If you are voluntarily1 taking part in a loyalty scheme of any kind, you’re being tricked.

I must confess, I didn’t really think much about this situation until fairly recently. As many people do, I just accepted the notion as a little extra perk that you got with your shopping experience and I dutifully had my various cards swiped, stamped or checked as I went about my shopping chores. And then, one day I had an interesting experience that threw some illumination on how retailers understand the concept of loyalty.

The incident in question involved a juice place in the local shopping centre. We’ll call it ‘Joos’. I would, on occasion, buy a juice from Joos as I was passing, and one day with my purchase I was given a little card. Apparently the object was to have it stamped each time I got a juice and then I would be rewarded after my tenth stamp with a free juice! How awesome is that! If you do the sums, that’s 10% off each juice I purchased. Well, I kept the card in my wallet (crammed at that time as it was with a dozen other Loyalty cards) and eventually, after a thirsty summer2 I had accrued ten juices and I went to collect on my free one.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the hip young Joos counter kid, “We don’t use that system anymore. Now we have a swipe card. Would you like one?”

“No,” said I, “I would like the free juice to which I’m entitled on account of my loyalty.”

“I can’t give you one – that system is out of date. You have to use the swipe card.”

“I see,” I said. “And when does the swipe card go out of date?”

The sarcasm was lost on her.

It got me to thinking. If Joos really cared about its customers – ALL its customers – why does it not simply mark its prices down by 10%? Surely these lower prices (at the usual Joos quality, of course) would be a big incentive to keep customers coming back to Joos! This is the sum effect of having all your customers in the loyalty scheme after all. The fact is, the reward system is nothing more than sleight of hand to make you think you’re getting value where there is none at all. Joos doesn’t care about their customers enough to pass on a substantial saving across the board, but is instead selling them the illusion that they are being faithful to the brand by making them go through a silly charade with a swipe card. They are, in effect, bribing you to be a customer. Wouldn’t it be something if customers were loyal simply because Joos was offering a great product at reasonable prices?

All loyalty/reward systems operate in the manner I’ve described above, to a greater or lesser extent. You need to keep in mind that the reduction in price conferred by these systems must be accounted for in the profit structure of the company offering them, anyway. The prices of a product have effectively been increased to offset any deficit that the reward scheme might have – in other words, the company doing the offering is selling an illusion that you’re getting a deal, when in fact they could offer you that ‘deal’ as a fairer price if they wanted to.34

So here is what I want you to do, my intrepid Cowmpanions, when next you’re out shopping and someone offers you one of these ridiculous Loyalty cards. I want you to look that person straight in the eye and say:

My dear Sir/Madam, if you want my loyalty, all you need provide is efficient, polite service and reasonable quality goods at sensible prices. If you do that, you won’t ever have to bribe me to come back to your store.

  1. In some cases you have very little choice. Credit cards almost universally include loyalty schemes in the form of ‘reward’ points – you literally can’t not be involved in one. []
  2. It’s not like I frequented this place often. It was an occasional stop on my shopping trips. []
  3. There is also a level of scumminess that comes with the scamminess, as I’m sure you’ve encountered, where the ‘reward’ is somewhat underwhelming when you actually collect it. For example, my local vet sells a cat food dental product that I buy in 3 kilogram bags. “Do you want to be part of our loyalty scheme?” asked the vet assistant, when I bought my first one. “You get one free bag for every six you buy!” It sounded good, so I signed up. Imagine my disappointment when I reached the sixth bag and was given the free one – not, as I expected, a complimentary replacement for my usual 3k bag, but a miserly 500 gram one instead. Yes, technically ‘a free bag’ but really a grudging and tight-fisted swindle. Honestly, I don’t know how vendors can treat customers with this kind of contempt. []
  4. Oh, and let’s not even start on Frequent Flyer points… []

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