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Archive for May, 2007

I’m in Boston, attending the Internet & Society conference at the Berkman Center tomorrow and Friday. I was perusing the Boston free paper on the metro (which they call “the T” here and which, incidentally, totally sucks compared to the DC metro — more on that later, with photographic evidence. and probably more on the conference later, too. but anyways…), in which I read an article on what seems to be a truly bizarre government crackdown: the war on little plastic tubes full of fake roses.

“The look like novelty items, but they’re not. For sale at convenience stores in Boston are four-inch glass tubes featuring fake mini-roses inside of them. They are crack pipes.”

Well, not necessarily. I may be being naive here, but I highly doubt that EVERYONE who buys these novelty items intends to smoke crack out of them, that they were solely manufactured in order for crackheads to smoke out of, and that all the Boston-area convenience stores that sell them are part of this nefarious plot.

Nonetheless, Boston city councilors are trying to pass a city ordinance banning the sale of these items, with a penalty of $300 for each rose-tube/pipe found in a convenience store.

“As a community, we need to work together on issues of drugs and violence,” said (City Councilor Chuck) Turner. “The business community needs to work with us as well. We have to find many creative ways to lessen the use of drugs.”

Righhhhtttt … because the only reasons people are smoking crack currently in Boston is because of the ready availability of these rose pipes. And they won’t just find other products to make crack pipes out of. And it’s up to convenience store owners to determine and police how people use any of the items they sell …

I know the panic over meth addicts using Sudafed to make the drug has led the common flu remedy to become an over-the-counter product, and there’s currently a trend-panic over “cheese,” the combination of Tylenol PM and Heroin .. but this whole rose/pipe thing just seems especially bizarre. There are about 8-hundred-billion ordinary products that can have more shady, if you will, uses (remember gravity bongs?). Attempts to ban these products (or make them less easily available) in an attempt to curtail illegal drug use is, well, futile at best, and a waste of legislator’s time (and resources) and an unfair intrusion on consumers at worst. Or maybe the other way around. Either way…

**** I guess this whole rose pipe phenomenon is nothing new.

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My god, in what universe is this girl obese?

[Via Cicero at TTP]

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    ABC News:As 21st century women dominate the universities and continue to climb the executive ladder, and metro-sexual men explore their feminine side, it’s harder to define what it means to be a woman

In the mildly frustrating category of the week … why is everyone so up in arms about this “new” birth control that allows women to not have periods at all? Doctors have been telling women to just take their regular birth control continuously (skipping the placebo sugar pill week) in order to avoid periods all together for years now. Seasonale, the pill that allows women to only have 4 periods a year when taking it regularly, has been out since 2003. The fact that this new pill, Lybrel, is touting itself as the birth control pill that allows women to skip periods entirely is more of a marketing ploy than some sort of grand scientific or cultural development; the regular old pill has been doing the same thing for years.

What’s funny is that “The Pill” — in it’s earliest form, in it’s iconic 1960s incarnation — could have been just like Lybrel, more or less. The earliest versions of the pill did, in fact, halt menstruation. But somewhere along the line pharmaceutical companies decided that giving women a pill that would stop their periods all together would be too radical, too unsettling, for most of their consumer market, so they created the whole one-week-dummy-pill system to make it seem more “normal” and “natural.” Notes the Washington Post:

The birth control pill was originally developed to mimic a normal cycle in the belief that women would find it more acceptable, not because it would be safer or more effective at preventing pregnancy.

More about the particulars of all this here.

So people back in the day, worried by the kind of moral outrage the Pill would provoke over lost fertility and womanhood, etc. etc., decided to keep periods as part of the pill, assuming America wasn’t ready for the other version. What’s amazing is that, more than 40 years later, a period-free pill is STILL provoking this kind of moral outrage about “lost” fertility and womanhood, what with Leslee Unruh out there screaming about this pill being a “pesticide” that’s somehow part of an evil NARAL and “big Pharma” conspiracy plot to make women hate babies; ABC news worried that, without the little ladies bleeding every 28 days, our society will suddenly lose the ability to differentiate between men & women (hint: it has something to do with penises and vaginas, yo. And maybe differential amounts of body hair); and Eugene Volokh imagining ridiculous scenarios where every month, we gals call all our friends a la the telephone scene in Bye Bye Birdie to share the news that we’re once again shedding the lining of our uteruses (What the story? Morning Glory? Called to tell you that I’m on the rag.).

I suppose this sort of crazy is not entirely surprising, though, considering that it still seems hard to get it through certain conservatives’ heads that birth control does not cause abortion (quite the opposite, really), nor does it represent a complete rejection of having children, as Unruh seems to think (in the Think Progress article, a NARAL spokeswoman notes that 98 percent of American women will use some form of contraception in their lives, and we’ve yet to see the USA become a land of childless harpies, so…).

Ann at Feministing wonders how the tampon companies will react to Lybrel. I kind of hope the tampon companies are the ones behind all this lost-womanhood-we-love-babies-gender-bending nonsense. A stealth, Bernays-like advertising campaign by the feminine-hygeine-products cabal would make a lot more sense than people actually believing this crap …

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new kind of Web video

What happens when you take Internet video out of its little YouTube box? Or use a mix of flash and video to tell a narrative? You get the National Film Board of Canada’s strange Web site/movie hybrid. Check it out; it’s pretty fucking cool, and presents an interesting picture of where Web movies could go. (there are also some pretty cool short film/stories here, including one where the filmmaker in residence gives cameras to homeless pregnant women to document their lives).

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new blogger

Welcome youngjoe below. Raee and I wanted this to be a group blog, but our original two other alleged contributors never contribute, so we’ve brought youngjoe on board for the time being. I will let youngjoe give his own introduction or bio if he wishes, but in the interim, I will provide … let’s see … 5 facts about youngjoe.

1. He is on hiatus from an undisclosed college somewhere in the midwest.
2. He can walk on lighting grids like a monkey.
3. He has to get up to go to work really early in the morning, allegedly because he works for some shipping and packing company, but maybe because he is a spy.
4. He is going to an IHS seminar this summer, and I am very excited for him because they brainwashed me when i was there and now they can brainwash him too!
5. He generally has cool shoes.

Bonus fact: he is kind of young, but not that young. he can drink legally. but he couldn’t when I knew him.

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Let’s talk about Paternalism for a moment.  This has been on my mind for a couple of days, triggered by a TV commercial regarding Ohio’s seatbelt law.  Now, most people agree that wearing seatbelts in cars is good and people want to be safe while they are driving, but look at the big picture here.  Why is there a law requiring it?  The government is trying to make all of our decisions for us because obviously we aren’t smart enough to make them for ourselves.

And this is happening everywhere.  With drug laws, laws regarding suicide, smoking, alcohol, pornography, and the reasons are all the same; the government is “trying to keep us safe.”  Safe from what?  From ourselves?  I think most people would agree that we are more capable than the government of making decisions about our personal safety.

I think it’s time for our teenage nation to stand up and fight for the right to decide for ourselves what is safe and what isn’t.  Maybe we’ll get hurt, maybe we’ll make mistakes, but dammit, they’ll be our mistakes!

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It must be my week to quote from Forbes business magazine, I’ll just say I love netvibes and leave it at that.

In a science fiction twisted story, a professor at McGill University is attempting to pull an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Giver.” Professor Karim Nader is trying erasing people’s memories.

Nader’s method is deceptively simple. He asks his patients to recall their bad memories and then gives them a so-called beta-blocker, a type of medication originally developed to treat heart conditions. The method does not aim to actually erase bad memories, but it can significantly reduce the severe pain of traumatic memories. His work could revolutionize how doctors treat epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder and even drug addiction.

If I were better at student in math, I would have loved to do memory and genetics study, alas, I’m stuck to reading it in business magazines. The idea that painful memories can be lessened and eased is both awe-inspiring and frightening. I think it’s important to look though at how we define memories, or at least how Nader does.

Nader’s big breakthrough came in 1999, when he first revived and tested the obscure theory that memories, once formed, do not necessarily remain stable. Instead, he posited, they could be unfixed and “reconsolidated”–a notion that flouted 100 years of conventional wisdom in his field

I understand the immense pain that people carry with them, but I’m still frightened by the fact that those painful memories can be lessened and/or erased. I have to be truthful that I haven’t had a lot of overt pain in my life and maybe there is a time in the future I would want to forget things. But I still tend to think that it can off-setting to use a drug to lessen pain. It might have been all those books I read about apocalyptic worlds where emotions are controlled with a drug or the government all in the hopes of protecting the greater good. I need to think about this more. Less pain, people are able to move on, but with a drug? Is that real what we need, more drugs? Maybe. Maybe, it’s the only way. Either way, I’m interested to follow the work of Nader, no matter what, the research is fascinating.

EDIT
After speaking with my science adviser, I have to admit when I’m wrong. I am wrong. I am way wrong. I understand a bit more what the doctor is trying to do and what actually can be done. I encourage everyone to read up on this more. I still think it’s sticky issue but I find interesting none the less. It’s hard to imagine what will be possible in the future due to science advancements.

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