Sunday, July 28, 2019

Dunning-Kruger strikes again - Antivaxxer misrepresents and misunderstands Mitkus' aluminum study

It generally doesn't take long to demonstrate that an antivaxxer (someone who doesn't believe vaccines are safe and effective AND perpetuate misinformation about them) lacks the basic science knowledge and math skills to correctly analyze and critique a scientific study.  During a week long process, this became abundantly clear early on with an antivaxxer named Lynnlee.

My original tweet to her:

Her reply:

So Lynnlee claims that the Mitkus study is "junk".  What ensued was a collection of errors on Lynnlee's part - it was actually hard to catalog and capture all of them.

Error #1

Mitkus' study wasn't simply based on oral aluminum exposure.  Lynnlee appears to be confusing what Mitkus calculated (total aluminum body burden over time) vs what those calculations were compared to (MRL50 - determined by the ATSDR, not by Mitkus).  Yes, Mitkus did utilize "injection sources" - primarily Flarend which used injected aluminum adjuvant in rabbits.

Error #2

This one took a few days to flesh out.  As background information, the ATSDR determined the MRL (minimum risk level) of aluminum based on review of many studies as discussed in their paper, "Toxicological Profile for Aluminum".  In the end, the MRL was determined this way:

Lynnlee claims "many studies" indicate that the actual NOAEL should be 3.4 mg/kg/day.  When pressed to demonstrate these studies, she made excuse after excuse for not providing the links to these studies. ("I don't have to if I don't want to" was actually one of her replies.   "You don't deserve it" was another).

As it turns out, her entire line of reasoning was simply a parroting of an article on vaccinepapers dot org without actually understanding it and just assuming veracity because it fed her confirmation bias.

Apparently the 3.4 mg/kg/day figure was based on several studies but, as it turns out, these studies were not correctly interpreted by vaccinepapers dot org.

I'm really glad J Kelly had access to that paper as this wouldn't have been something I would have been able to deduce or confirm.  So, vaccinepapers dot org claimed that these studies used 17 mg/kg/day of AlCl3 and because AlCl3 is about 20% elemental aluminum, they determined that the actual amount of elemental aluminum given was 17 mg/kg/day x 20% = 3.4 mg/kg/day.  As J Kelly discovered, the 17 mg/kg/day was of elemental aluminum - not AlCl3. 

Error #3

During the time period it took to finally figure out that Lynnlee's entire line of reasoning using the 3.4 mg/kg/day aluminum toxicity figure was flawed from the start, more than a few other errors showed up.

Again, Lynnlee appears to be confusing what Mitkus' study was about and what was calculated (body burden of aluminum) vs what the ATSDR determined (the MRL).    The NOAEL (or LOAEL) of 3.4 mg/kg/day had nothing to do with Mitkus' curve.

When pressed to explain what solubility had to do with Mitkus' calculations (it doesn't have anything to do with them), Lynnlee never did come up with an explanation - just continued to parrot what vaccinepapers dot org claimed.

Error #4

Ironically, Lynnlee continues to claim that she is "100% accurate" when it's very clear that she hasn't been.  She goes on to claim that Mitkus used the MRL values to evaluate the safety of injecting aluminum adjuvant.  Mitkus used aluminum exposure (via oral and injection), aluminum toxicokinetics, baseline aluminum levels at birth, varying infant body weight, the actual vaccination schedule, and aluminum retention based on infant renal function to determine aluminum body burden.  No, the MRL values were not used in his calculations at all but simply as a source of comparison.

Error #5

Lynnlee tends to use a lot of ALL CAPS when she's getting frustrated at being shown how wrong she is.  This particular claim was fascinating and a simple parroting of what vaccinepapers dot org stated.  Here's the math according to Lynnlee:

The intermediate exposure MRL was calculated by the ATSDR using the Golub et al study that determined a NOAEL of 26 mg/kg/day.  Because Lynnlee (and vaccinepapers dot org) claimed that the actual NOAEL should be 3.4 mg/kg/day (which we already know was an invalid conclusion).  So the actual MRL should be "adjusted" by a factor of:  26 divided by 3.4 = 7.6

This is bad math.  If we go back to what ATSDR did to determine the MRL for intermediate exposure based on the Golub et al study for NOAEL of 26 mg/kg/day, we see that the ATSDR didn't simply use this figure.  The ATSDR used Golub's figure and adjusted it using an uncertainty factor of 100 and a further modifying adjustment of 0.3 (to account for bioavailability).  Simply dividing the MRL (1 mg/kg/day) by 7.6 is inaccurate.

  • ATSDR calculation using Golub's figure:  26 mg/kg/day divided by uncertainty factor of 100 divided by modifying adjustment of 0.3 = 0.866 mg/kg/day (rounded up to 1 mg/kg/day by the ATSDR)
  • Lynnlee's "7.6 adjustment":  MRL 1 mg/kg/day divided by 7.6 = 0.1315 mg/kg/day
  • Actual ATSDR calculation adjusting for her (wrong) claim that the NOAEL should be 3.4 mg/kg/day:  NOAEL 3.4 mg/kg/day divided by uncertainty factor of 100 divided by modifying adjustment of 0.3 = 0.1133 mg/kg/day
Error #6

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Lynnlee tries very hard to demonstrate the math but makes multiple errors which I corrected for her.

Error #7

Lynnee made many errors in the use of units.  When pointed out to her that she made a simple error, she doubled down, insisted that her "adjustment factor" was expressed in mg, and then even went on to accuse me of not recognizing that the y axis of the graph in Mitkus' paper was "in mg" which means her "adjustment factor" should be in mg.

Error #8 

Another example of an error that seemed like a fairly simple one (% instead of mg) but when pointed out, Lynnlee doubles down instead of just acknowledging it and even accused me of not understanding how to convert a decimal to a percentage.

When asked "85% of what" the answer was:  "1 mg".  When asked "1 mg of what" the answer was: "aluminum".  So according to Lynnlee, the FDA set a limit of aluminum in each vaccine dose of "85% of  1 mg of aluminum".  Yeah, that made no sense to me either despite her claim that it was "clearly shown prior".  Here's what the FDA actually says.

So in Lynnlee-speak, what the FDA is actually saying is that:  "Federal Regulations for biological products (including  vaccines) limit the amount of aluminum in the recommended individual dose of biological products, including vaccines, to not more than 85% of 1 mg of aluminum to 125% of 1 mg of aluminum.  For example, the amount of aluminum in the hepatitis B vaccine given at birth is 25% of 1 mg of aluminum."

Error #9

There were several dimensions of error associated with the hypothetical math that I intentionally did to demonstrate an intentionally nonsense value based on a fabricated claim (that toxic effects were noted beginning at an NOAEL of 3.4 mg/kg/day).

So Lynnlee actually agreed with my math and how it demonstrates that there is toxicity from aluminum body burden at birth.  Of course, this is complete nonsense.  No, children are not born brain damaged.  But again, Lynnlee doubles down and, while admitting she didn't even look at my math, she agreed anyway.  Why?  Confirmation bias.

Even more bizarre is that she also claimed that the math I did was wrong and tries to use yet another "adjustment factor" that she called "dividing for rough estimate" - very strange terminology.  For her own fabricated value of "3.4 mg/kg/day" even.

Error #10

Speaking of strange terminology.  A few examples of what happens when you don't actually understand the science or math and simply make up your own terminology as you go along.
"departure to two months"

"responding factors"

And this really kind of summarizes Lynnlee's Dunning-Kruger Effect.  

Edited to add (13 August 19):

Lynnlee lost her mind when she finally responded to this blog post.  False accusations, idle threats, nonsense claims. 

No, I don't need permission to point out the errors made publicly on a social media platform like Twitter.

Idle threats.

Veiled profanity - it never works.

Changing between public and private status on Twitter doesn't change facts.

No, there are no laws being broken.  Paranoia about "putting family in harms way" should make one reconsider tweeting publicly on Twitter in the first place.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Switzer Family Christmas Newsletter 2018

“At Christmas, all roads lead home.” ―Marjorie Holmes

For the first time ever, we welcome Seth's entire family to Enid for the holiday this year.  We wish you and yours the very best this Christmas season and although we may not get to see each and every one of you in person from year to year, you're never far from our hearts.

- Seth, Eve, Amina, and Rhys

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Adventures by Disney Enchanted China Adults Only Tour (9 - 21 Sep 2018) - Final Notes and Thoughts

When "researching" this trip, I searched high and low for any blog I could get my hands on about the Adventures by Disney Enchanted China tour.  I found very few but did glean some really good information from them.  So, I told myself that I would make sure to write a no-holds-barred account of our almost 2 week trip to China including spoilers and everything for those who are, like me, consummate planners.

To start, here they are where I really tried to concentrate on the details of what we did and what we enjoyed rather than including the more nitty/gritty intense details or things we didn't really like:

Day 0-1 (7-9 Sep 2018)
Day 2 (10 Sep 2018)
Day 3 (11 Sep 2018)
Day 4 (12 Sep 2018)
Day 5 (13 Sep 2018)
Day 6 (14 Sep 2018)
Day 7 (15 Sep 2018)
Day 8 (16 Sep 2018)
I've uploaded almost all the pictures and videos that were taken (still need to add a few from Seth's camera as well as the ones from our ABD guides).

Here's a summary (TL;DR version) of the tips that I've sprinkled in along the way in my blog posts for those who are considering or planning on taking this wonderful trip:

(1)  Arrive early for this Adventure.  The travel from the US is pretty long and brutal. Our friends, Wade and Charlie, arrived into Hong Kong on Saturday before the tour started on Sunday.  We also left the US on Friday but took our time getting to Hong Kong and ended up arriving early on Sunday morning. And, also, Hong Kong and China don't allow online check-in.  Boarding passes have to be issued by the airline at the airport.

(2)  It's not a vacation.  It's an Adventure.  We had very few days where I felt like we "slept in" - we were constantly getting up early and always on the go.  I don't normally set my alarm at home but on this trip, the snooze button got hit a lot.  This isn't really different than any other ABD (and I'm not complaining at all about this - I normally run and try to keep my mileage in the 10-15 miles per week range), though, but I thought there was a lot more walking, climbing, and the number of airline flights we took was pretty intense and exhausting.  According to Seth's iPhone app, we walked about 90-100 miles during the entire trip with about 30 of those miles over just 4 days.

(3)  We always fly business class overseas.  I realize this probably sounds snotty but these were 8 and 10 hour flights in our case.  It's been a long time since we've flown economy overseas and all I remember was constantly looking at my watch to see how much longer we had.  I can't overstate how much more comfortable and accommodating business class is - the time really did seem to fly by.

(4)  If you arrive into Hong Kong at the Peninsula early on Sunday morning, breakfast is not complimentary.  We found this out after the fact.  It's only complimentary after you've spent the night.

(5)  Even though both my American Express card and my Capital One MasterCard specifically say there's no need to notify them of travel, I found it a pain to get cash from the ATM.  In retrospect, I should have called them up, let them know about our travel destinations, and find out specifically how to use the ATM the first time around.

(6)  China is a bit fanatical about airport security.  They focused on not only electronics and liquids but also every charger, converter, and, oddly, umbrellas that you may have in your carry on.  An umbrella in your checked in luggage would be immediately confiscated.  Seth got held up at security for a charging battery that he had slipped into a pocket of his backpack and didn't remember having brought with him  - this frustrated him to no end because he didn't speak Chinese and had no idea what the security guard was saying.  He also had to remove his iPhone from its case because it had a battery and magnet in it.  They also stopped another Adventurer who had a coin purse in her bag.  Also, expect to be thoroughly frisked/patted down when you pass through security.  They do it fast but aren't shy about touching you.  Our fingerprints and pictures were taken with some frequency as well.

(7)    The bathroom struggle is real.  "Squatty potties" are the norm.  Western toilets are not.  Ralph and Daisy were heroes in making sure that the bathrooms they pointed out to us were at least 3-4 stars but even if they were, it simply took too long to wait for the Western toilet (there were, after all, about 20 other ladies on our tour) as there were frequently only 1 or 2 in each particular bathroom.  I ended up using the squat toilets at nearly every stop I went to just to avoid the wait. If you have trouble squatting (or simply don't want to), expect to wait.   I made the mistake twice going to the restroom without tissue and Daisy/Ralph were not nearby.  Fortunately, other Adventurers were generous with their tissues.  Charlie stated it well towards the end of our trip - we seemed to have developed a degree of pee anxiety - or maybe, more like potty anxiety:  getting caught having to go potty without a decent potty nearby.  "Pee when you can, not when you have to" really is the best motto to go by.

Toilet stop at the Forbidden City

Squat potty - the norm and the vast majority of toilets

Everyone is discouraged from putting even toilet paper in the toilet

5 star western public toilet - one of the only ones I used
 (8)  Be flexible.  Our plans didn't follow the advertised itinerary to a "t".  We had to make a few dining changes for a variety of reasons.  Also, there hasn't been a single Adventure that we've taken where there aren't some Adventurers who are more difficult to get along with than others.  This is everyone being human beings.  We had some challenges on this tour as well and that's all I'm going to say about that.  Overall, our fellow Adventurers were awesome and, just to give an indication of just how comfortable we got with each other by the end of the tour, the bathroom in Club 33 only has 2 stalls.  We all had to switch out of our park clothes into our dinner outfits and most of us were comfortable doing this in the bathroom without a second thought.

(9)  In Guilin on the river cruise to see the gumdrop mountains, we sat at  the far end of our private deck right by the door that went out to our private balcony.  People were constantly going in and out this door and this part of the deck did get warmer than the rest of the air conditioned deck.  Also, use the bathroom early rather than later.  The more people that used them, the more stars that bathroom seemed to lose.

(10)  Don't be afraid to try things.  I'm willing to try most everything as long as it doesn't have any cilantro in it or on it (tastes like soap).  It's mind boggling to me that anyone would choose this particular Adventure if they either don't like Chinese food or have significant food restrictions.  It might just be me but we live to eat and part of exploring a culture is definitely exploring their food.

(11)  At the Shangri-La in Guilin, families get more than one room key.  I would suggest leaving one of the keys in the slot by the door that powers the room when you leave.  Without that card in the slot, the AC turns off.  Our room was very very warm when we returned.

(12)  When we say "Szechuan spicy" - that's really really spicy.  Beware the spicy broth at the Hot Pot restaurant.  Even though I love spicy food, even this broth was too much for me and I primarily ended up using the "mild" side of the broth to cook with.  If you aren't sure, I would opt for the combo or mix.

(13)  There were quite a few nights where we had bag pull scheduled which meant that we had to leave our checked luggage outside our room to be picked up the night before we left and only keep things that we could pack in our carry ons for the evening.  This is where I found the toothbrush and toothpaste that every hotel provided to be particularly handy.  In other words, you really don't even need to pack a toothbrush/toothpaste.

(14)  Heat + Humidity = Ugh.  We went in September - getting to the tail end of their summer.  Ralph and Daisy kept remarking on how nice the weather was but there were days that I thought were really hot and everyone was sweating.  I can only imagine what this adventure was like during the months of July and August with temperatures in the high 90s and exceeding 100F.  Seth soaked through his shirt each and every day.  This is just something to keep in mind when booking as well as in terms of packing.

(15)  Soarin' in Shanghai Disneyland is different than the ones in California and Florida but not really worth the wait as it's not all that much different.  We didn't get fast passes (I suppose we could have stopped to try to get some) but this was the only ride where we waited about an hour to ride.  Even Tron and Pirates were pretty much "walk ons".

(16)  This was, by far, the best trip in terms of the amazing hotels we stayed in.  I think this was one of the primary reasons our friends, Wade and Charlie, elected to travel with us on this tour.  Disney is all about service and class not only in the selection of hotels but also the food and the whole VIP experience which we appreciate very much and why we've been on 5 Adventures so far.

(17)  Of course I have to mention our Guides - Daisy and Ralph.  Adventure Guides that are with you during the entire trip are the quintessential piece of how the whole tour works.  Both of our Guides shared a similar sense of humor and passion about their work and were a great team.  I'm sure there were many many things that happened behind the scenes that we didn't even know about.  They approached queries, requests, and complaints from Adventurers with that Disney style we've come to know and expect and never appeared tired or unenthusiastic or annoyed.

When we accidentally left the tea we had purchased in Xi'An on the restaurant table, Daisy arranged to have it shipped to the Peninsula in Shanghai.  This was absolutely seamless.  I felt like Daisy took a special interest in my background having parents who were both born in China and she helped me brush up on my Chinese quite a bit.  I enjoyed getting to use my rusty Mandarin on this trip. There were many times where she "went Daisy" (in Mandarin) with certain non-Adventurers to make sure that our experience went well/smoothly.  Daisy is so very proud of her country and heritage and it shows.

Ralph made sure everyone was clear on what the daily plans were and greeted us every day on the bus with "Ni Hao Adventurers".  As the tour progressed, it ended up being "Niiii hao, Adventurerrrrrrrrrs!” and we all came to expect this greeting every day.  Ralph got a good deal of ribbing for his comment how the amount of walking we would be doing in Beijing at Tian An Men square and the Forbidden City would be like a couple of football fields.  Most everyone agreed it was way more walking than that (we walked over 7 miles that day) and joked with him on how a football field was smaller than he thought.  I so appreciated his sense of humor, patience, infectious enthusiasm, and photo bombs.

Both Guides were constantly circulating at any meal, stop, and event making sure everything was great and that we were happy.   There were stops that they offered to take pictures for us and expertly juggled up to 4 or 5 iPhones and cameras at the same time.   I really can't give Ralph and Daisy enough credit for making our trip so unique and memorable.  

(18)  I almost forgot, the winners of our "Hidden Mickey" and "Lost in Translation" contest:

Cinci's Hidden Mickey

Shawn's Lost in Translation submission
My biggest regret about this trip was that we didn't take our grown kids with us to share this experience.  Just one more thing to add to our bucket list.  Oh, and the wasp I was stung by almost 2 weeks ago.  That sucker had some potent venom.  I left out all the details about how my arm swelled, my fingers went numb, and I lived on ibuprofen for a week.  Just when I thought my arm was feeling better, the redness, heat, swelling, and itching would start up again.  At one point, I couldn't wear my watch and tried to keep my arm elevated as my wedding ring was starting to hurt.  Then on the way home, I developed a hypersensitivity reaction with hives all over.  I started some oral steroids the night we got home and am feeling much better.  Probably TMI but best to avoid those Chinese wasps!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Day 12-13 (20-21 Sep 2018) – Shanghai to OKC, Adventures by Disney Enchanted China Adults Only Tour

We were up by about 4:30 am to finish packing and got our suitcases out by 5:15 am then headed down to the lobby where both Daisy and Ralph were waiting for us. We were the only ones leaving at 5:30 am and had a private car that took us to terminal 2 at the Shanghai airport for our Finnair flight.

It wasn’t tough to get checked in and we breezed through thanks to priority check-in as we were flying business class from Shanghai to Helsinki. The group that was taken to the airport even earlier than us weren’t able to check into their flight (they were flying to Tokyo to visit Tokyo Disneyland) when they arrived into the airport and we actually beat them to passport control. We got to the border patrol officer and were directed to step back and fill out a Departure Card. This wasn’t made clear before we got in the passport/border control line.

We hung out at the airport lounge for the next couple hours and ate breakfast which, for me, included noodles with bok choy and sauce. It was really quite good.

Our flight to Helsinki was about 10 hours and followed the typical pattern for all each of our flights: “breakfast” was served and then lights out for rest followed by “lunch”. I didn’t really sleep much and watched a couple of movies and almost finished a third one by the time we landed in Helsinki.

We arrived about 45 minutes early into Helsinki which was great because it gave us plenty of time to get through passport control and find/check-in to the Hilton at the airport. We waited a really long time at passport control – the border officers were super serious about scrutinizing everyone coming into the country. They looked over Seth’s boarding pass for tomorrow, quizzed him about what our purpose was in Finland (just a 24 hour lay over) and where we were staying even asking if we had already made a hotel reservation. By the time I got up to the desk, it was much easier as I had the same story as him.

We navigated our way to the Hilton and checked in then stowed our stuff in our room. I had received another email from Sussy, our tour guide, who was taking the train up to the airport to meet us. We met her in the lobby at around 3 pm and headed out to Helsinki city center via train which took about half an hour and cost us about $14 Euros each for a 1 day pass.

Sussy took us to visit a number of different buildings including a music hall, a stone church ($3 Euros per person entrance fee), a conference center, several markets, and described to us what it was like to be a typical resident of Finland. We stopped in a shop to buy a magnet and concluded our tour at around 6 pm.

Even though our reservation wasn’t until 7 pm, we went ahead and walked over to Finlandia Caviar and were seated at the window on barstools. There was a group of business men in the small cafe that were particularly loud and obnoxious – one of them kept repeatedly inviting us to join them and their language (they were speaking in English) was pretty salty.

It took quite a while to place our order and get our food. We ordered a tasting of 4 caviars – 1 oz each with condiments, 2 vodka flights (one Russian and one Finnish), and a caviar truffle egg.

Russian Vodka Flight

Finland Vodka Flight

We enjoyed our tasting but decided we probably needed more than this for dinner. So we paid for our tasting (it was only $140 Euros) and decided to head back to the train station to have a Hesburger – what Sussy described as being very popular in Finland and similar to McDonald’s. It was really cold outside – low 60s – nearly 50s and windy – as we made our way back to the train station which was only about 5 or 6 blocks away. We each had a hamburger and shared some fries. It was pretty good but quite distinct from our McDonald’s burgers, fries, and ketchup.

The Helsinki train station is pretty easy to navigate and we had different choices of lines that would take us back to the airport – we couldn’t make the next train that was leaving – the platform was too far away so we opted for the next train on platform 1. We easily made our way back to our hotel and called it night early. We didn’t have to be up at any particular time in the morning as our flight didn’t leave until after 2 pm.

We were both up by about 8:30 am and took our time getting ready, taking advantage of the Hilton’s complimentary wi-fi, and took showers. We decided to head over to the airport a bit early to grab something to eat at the Finnair lounge. This time, passport control wasn’t nearly as bad and we relaxed in the lounge for quite a while as I got all of my pictures and nearly all of Seth’s pictures uploaded to my smugmug account.

It was another long flight back to Chicago – about 9 hours and during the flight, we passed over Greenland which was pretty cool to see. It also gave me the chance to finish my vacation blog.

As with all of our Adventures by Disney trips to date, this adventure was certainly no exception – it met and exceeded our expectations and will be a trip that we’ll remember forever and look back fondly at. We’re so glad to have been able to share this adventure with Wade and Charlie too (their first ABD) as we realized during this trip that we had been travel buddies with them for over 10 years now. I think we successfully converted them to ABD Insiders with Charlie talking about how he wanted to do the South Africa ABD in the future. Up next: the planning and saving for my 50th birthday trip in 2019 – we’re looking at Sonoma for a week to eat at the French Laundry and check out the wine train, wineries, and maybe a cheese tour. We’re planning on the Teskes joining us on this one next year.

Here are all the photos and videos we took on this trip uploaded to my smugmug account
(We haven't received the pictures from ABD yet and I need to finish uploading pictures from Seth's camera - as soon as those become available, I'll be incorporating some of those into my blog as well as uploading them to this smugmug folder)