Travelling on…


NZ Skeptic Chair-entity Gold stopped by the NZ Skeptic offices recently on his way from Bluff to Cape Reinga. Looking rather hairier than when he started, and having “worn out a foot” in Palmerston North, he is now travelling by cycle. The original plan was to follow Te Araroa, the walkway that runs the length of the country, but since swapping feet for wheels he has detoured through Napier and Rotorua. The journey is raising money for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, Women’s Refuge and, of course, the NZ Skeptics, as well as giving the web programmer a chance to recover from the OOS that was threatening his career. He’ll be settling in Wellington at the completion of the ride.

You can read about his travels at intentionallyhomeless.org

3000 km for skepticism

Gold takes a long walk.

Some time back I noticed that I was getting the first signs of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). I’m a web developer and spend way too much time in front of a keyboard and mouse. It’s a common enough thing among people in my industry. From what I can tell one of the best ‘treatments’ for it is to just stop for a bit. So I am.

In order to do something productive, or at least worthwhile, during this time I’m going for a sponsored walk to raise funds for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust, Woman’s Refuge and our own NZ Skeptics Society. I’ve built a half-way decent website for it (intentionallyhomeless.org) and it’s able to take pledges for distance covered. Providing I finish the full trail I have already raised over $2000 as I write this.

The trail I’m following is called Te Araroa (The Long Pathway) and it was only recently completed and opened. It runs for 3000 km from Cape Reinga to Bluff, although I’m starting in the south and fleeing the (potentially) foul weather instead of heading into it.

I’ll be maintaining a journal on the website where you can follow the journey and, should you choose, you can pledge money to the charities or sponsor me personally.

I’m also looking for supply drops, couches and interesting things along the walk. One way to check the track would be to install Google Earth and load the trail using the .kmz file available at the official site (teararoa.org.nz). If you, as a resupply drop or couch, or the point of interest are close enough to the trail I’ll definitely make the stop.

The best way to contact me would be via the contact form on the Intentionally Homeless site or via [email protected]

Battling the Bands

Gold takes local action against PowerBalance, with encouraging results.

PowerBalance Bands are hideously expensive silicon rubber wristbands with a mylar hologram in them. PowerBalance, an American company, made a killing with these after convincing some popular sports personalities that they had the ability to improve their strength and performance. They achieved this by working “with the body’s natural energy field”. They were shut down in Australia due to the work of a number of people, including Richard Saunders of the Skeptic Zone podcast who did a great informal double blind test with the Today Tonight show and the local distributor1.

After this happened I found that these were all over the place on TradeMe. From memory there were on average 30+ listings for these at any given time. This was when I discovered something quite handy on TradeMe. The site has a Community Watch feature that allows you to report listings for all sorts of reasons. These are checked and the item is taken down if the complaint stands up. With the recent takedown of PowerBalance in Australia it wasn’t hard to convince TradeMe to remove the listings. Within a week the average number of listings was around 3-4 and I would hammer these every few days to keep the number low. As I write there are 10 listings if you search for “power balance bands” on TradeMe. I’ll submit complaints about these after I get this article off.

Recently a local skeptic, who we’ll refer to as Bob, started posting a listing which was a copy of the Corrective Notice from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission2 with a description that explained exactly what PowerBalance bands are, how they fool you into thinking there is an effect (they use a 70-year-old stage magician’s trick that relies on applied kinesiology), and that any proceeds from the sale of the Notice would go to the NZ Skeptics Society as a donation. Despite being very clear about the fact that the product for sale is a printout of the Corrective Notice3 which PowerBalance were ordered to post on their site, the member has been instructed to no longer post these listings.

The Solution? Placebo Bands. The Skeptic Bros4 are a couple of guys from Australia who tracked down a manufacturer for these silicon bands, scraped the money together, had a Placebo Band design made up, ordered the first 1000 (minimum order) and crossed their fingers. The bands sold well. Bob currently has a supply of these that are being listed on TradeMe, so you’ll be able to get your own should you want one. Proceeds (after covering costs) will be donated to the NZ Skeptics Society.

The American company is still active, although they have also recently filed for Chapter 115.

  1. YouTube: goo.gl/dN1i8
  2. TGA ruling: goo.gl/bMVEp
  3. Retraction notice: goo.gl/j8mw4
  4. The Skeptic Bros: goo.gl/NUGWU
  5. Google News: goo.gl/o4XWx