Jun 13

Friday Fun: The Placebo Journal

Dr. Doug Farrago is a board certified family practice physician in Maine who happens to publish my favorite medical journal, the Placebo Journal.

For the uninitiated, it might be fair to say that the Placebo Journal is sort of like The Onion, but all about medicine.

Here’s an example parody advertisement from PJ for the Drug Rep Piñata:

(This and other sample pages from PJ available here).

I met Dr. Farrago at the AMA Medical Communications Conference in April. He seems willing and able to mock anything or anyone, including himself, and he’s very funny.

How’d the Placebo Journal get started?

“About 9 years ago I was totally burned out. Things were getting to me. When I went to the office all the crying and whining was driving me crazy. Then I realized that the crying and whining was coming from me. What saved me was the stories my partners and I shared with each other. It made me realize I wasn’t alone. Ripping on all the absurdities that go on in health care didn’t hurt either.”

What are your richest sources for subjects to satirize?

Medicine is so chock full of bullshit. The shenanigans of the Medical Axis of Evil (lawyers, insurance companies, big Pharma) makes life too easy for me.

Have any of your targets ever come after you for criticizing or satirizing them?

Google “Cigna” and “Farrago” togetherDavid did Google “Cigna” and “Farrago” together. Click here.. Let’s just say parody holds up pretty well as a defense mechanism.

To what do you attribute the growth of the Placebo Journal? What need does it fill?

Everyone loves medicine. There is a reason that ER, House and Grey’s Anatomy are so popular. We all have been patients at one time or another so everyone can relate. My audience initially was just doctors but it has spread like a virus. There is a vaccine for it, by the way, but it is only about 40% effective and may cause autism.

Placebo Journal fills the need of humor for many people – especially physicians, the majority of which are socially retarded.

Dr. Farrago is branching out into other media, including video. Embedded below is a recent episode of Placebo Television (distributed via YouTube).

(Those reading via RSS may need to visit the site to vbiew embedded video above)

To keep on top of new episodes, subscribe to this feed.

He also has a blog and an email newsletter you can sign up for here.

Good news for academic medical librarians:
Dr. Farrago is looking to improve his exposure to medical students. He tells me that he wants to give some free, one-year subscriptions to libraries that’ll put the Placebo Journal out where medical students can see them. If you’re interested, leave a comment below and I’ll pass your email address on to Dr. Farrago.

Good news for everyone else:
Want a sample issue of the Placebo Journal so you can consider adding it to your serials budget? You can get one by clicking here.

Bonus: Dr. Farrago graciously gave me permission to post this sneak-preview of a page from the upcoming June edition of the Placebo Journal:

I think this is the first time I’ve actually recommended a non-free product or service on this blog. Let that inform your estimation of how much I enjoy the Placebo Journal. 🙂

Jun 10

Off-Topic: Boggle and Sneak

You might remember that about a year ago I posted about our friend Fritz’s “Novel-a-month” project.

Of of those books is published and available now. Here’s Fritz explaining Boogle and Sneak in 32 seconds:

(Those reading via RSS may need to visit the site in order to view embedded video above)

I think this makes Fritz pretty much the coolest Dad ever.

You can purchase the hardcover book via Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Fritz adds:

Boggle & Sneak is Creative Commons licensed (CC-BY-NC).
Download the full text for free: PDF · HTML · TXT
Noncommercial sharing and remixing are strongly encouraged.

See what I mean? Coolest. Dad. Ever.

More detail (including Maker Faire video and Instructable for Fritz’s Time Machine) here.

Dec 18

Name That Disease

Okay …THIS is the last post of 2007.

NameThatDisease.com will rank you based on a quiz about well-known diseases. Some of the clues may just be trivia…but I still thought it was fun- and I scored “Hawkeye Pierce.” (Woohoo!)


Given that, I can’t imagine that a physician would score lower than Doogie Howser.

Related: NameThatDrug.com

Thanks to my brother Andrew for the heads-up!

Dec 14

TV Librarians (YouTube fun)

A YouTube user going by the handle of “TVLibrarian” is collecting and posting short clips of librarians and libraries from popular television programs. Neat!

I love this one:

Although I’ve never heard of of a public library volunteer being called a “docent”…

Want to be informed when TVLibrarian posts new videos? Subscribe to this feed.

Dec 06

“Health 2.0” on Television (Scrubs)

I’m NOT obsessed with television just because I wrote about House MD, the writers strike, and now Scrubs. I’m not. Really.

…Oh, shut up and give me the remote.

The TV show Scrubs mentioned tonight both online rating of physicians and patients who rely on health information from Wikipedia.

Dr. Cox: So you’re declining chemo because Wikipedia says that a Raw Food diet reverses the effects of Bone Cancer…? Well, hey- any info you have that I can pass on to my other patients would just be super… and by-the-by…while you’re on your computer perhaps you could jump over to a little site called rateyourdoc.org…?

…a few minutes later…

Patient: There. I gave you five stars.

Dr. Cox: Thank you! And now, I have to take your laptop from you as I’ve deemed you just too darn stupid to use it. See, those bell peppers that you’re munching? They aren’t going to do a truckload of jack against the cancer raging inside of your body. Of course, I’ve only been a doctor for some TWENTY YEARS and the person who wrote that Wikipedia entry also authored the Battlestar Galactica Episode Guide…so what the heck do I know…? But… if you feel like living? Page me.

Hah! NBC actually made a Web site for RateYourDoc.org!

And I did get a result when I searched for a Wikipedia article on Raw Food that mentioned it as a cancer treatment. See screen capture below:

Mattering only if you share my tastes in music: The soundtrack to the episode featured a track by one of my all-time favorite bands- Jump, Little Children, most of whom I met in 1992 at NCSA. If you can, get yourself copies of the Licorice Tea Demos and Buzz. Or order The Early Years. Good guys, great music. I went to see them live every chance I had.

Nov 23

House MD and the Writers Strike

I really, really like House M.D..

Hugh Laurie is fantastic as the eponymous Dr. Gregory House, a vicodin-addicted misanthrope and diagnostic genius. Even when the medicine (or even the writing) isn’t great, Laurie makes the show worth watching.Also interesting: My wife says she plans to leave me for Hugh Laurie if ever the opportunity should arise. I can only applaud her good taste and advance planning.

If you have seen at least two episodes of the show, keep reading. If you haven’t, you may want to skip this post.

A Metafilter user wonders how hard it can be to write an episode of House.

CHASE: House, we need to cure this patient. He is very sick.
HOUSE: Did you try the medicine drug?
CHASE: I did try the medicine drug.
HOUSE: Only stupid people try the medicine drug. You are stupid.
PATIENT: I would rather not be sick.
HOUSE: You are stupid too. Did you take stupid drug?
FOREMAN: I gave patient stupid drug.
HOUSE: You are a black man.
FOREMAN: This vexes me.
PATIENT: I have blood from my nose that is dripping.
CAMERON: That’s bad!
PATIENT: Also I was bitten by mice due to my poor hygiene.
CUTTY: You need hygiene drug. Also, I have not spoken in awhile.
HOUSE: No! Hygiene drug will kill Patient! He needs mouse bites to live!
CHASE: [Shocked]
CAMERON: [Shocked]
FOREMAN: [Vexed]
HOUSE: More mouse bites!
CUTTY: I forbid this.
HOUSE: Don’t care.
CHASE: [Gets mice]
HOUSE: [Makes mouse bite serum]
PATIENT: I feel better. No more nose blood! Thank you doctor!
HOUSE: I am very smart.
WILSON: I, too, am in this episode.
FOREMAN: This vexes me.


By Drew Meger (a librarian!)
Found here

I laughed myself silly the first three times I read this.

Related: I wouldn’t enjoy House nearly as much if Scott at Polite Dissent (one of my favorite blogs) didn’t provide a medical review of each epsiode. I like to record House, wait a day, then read Scott’s review immediately after watching the episode.

Nov 18

The Entertaining Health Problems of Historical Figures

So it turns out that Hitler was a great big fartypants.

His private physician, Dr. Theo Morell, recorded in his diary that after Hitler downed a typical vegetable platter, “constipation and colossal flatulence occurred on a scale I have seldom encountered before.”

I wish I understood why the thought of Adolf Hitler with “colossal…agonizing flatulence” entertains me so much.

Unfortunately, I missed the History Channel’s program on the topic of Hitler’s healthcare, High Hitler, but there’s a list of books on the topic of Hitler’s health here.

Also in recent news, many of Karl Marx’s health complaints would be explained as resulting from hidradenitis suppurativa, says Sam Shuster, professor of dermatology at the University of East Anglia.

“The bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day,” Marx told Friedrich Engels in a letter from 1867.

Dermatological ailment as political metaphor. Heh.

Nov 02

Friday Fun: Books of Fury

(Not new, but new to me)

This cartoon features a Buddhist Monkey who defends his/her library from book-desecrating Ninjas. Gory (but brightly-colored) violence and bookshelf-ladder chase sequences ensue.

Not everyone’s taste- but it made me chuckle more than once.

(Above: Embedded video. If you are reading this in a feed aggregator, you may need to visit the site to view the video)

Aug 17

Mark Wentz: The Ballad of Mayo Libraries 2.0

I’ve mentioned previously that Mayo Libraries are doing a Learning 2.0 program. One of the participants, Mark Wentz, recently wrote The Ballad of Mayo Libraries 2.0 and has kindly allowed me to post it here. Love it!

(To the melody of Paul Henning’s “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.”)

Come learn about Libraries 2.0
Chock full of things a person oughta’ know
Learn about things you thought could never be
Then use ’em as you advance technologically
(Web, that is. Google. Internet.)

Next thing you know well you’re building up a blog
RSS so your time doesn’t get a clog
Sharing information for ev’ryone to see
Adding a link to a rockin’ new wiki
(Easy, it is. Collaborate. Info share!)

We’ve just started and the fun has just begun
We’ll learn much more before this project’s done
When we’re finished our tracking log we’ll send
And hope to win the techie prize they promised at the end
( Y’all IM back now, ya hear?)

Thanks, Mark!