Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pharmaceutical Companies on Social Media

 Check out my story on scienceline.org about drug companies using social media to advertise... illegally.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Birth Control Makes You Less Attractive...

I picked up Psychology Today and read the article The Double Life of Women, with this description: "The invisible turns of the reproductive cycle shape the everyday behavior of women and men. A woman's cycle influences not just her preference in a partner, but her personality as well."

Particularly interested in hormones, I thought the article looked promising. I wanted to hear more about the science of the complex interrelationship between mood and hormones. It's one that's been blown out of proportion in popular culture (this SNL commercial for a once a year period is hilarious though).

The gist of the piece is that, in contrast to historical thinking, women actually do exhibit signs of what menstrual stage they're in - subtle indications to the male population. Also, depending on that stage, women prefer different types of men. When she's ovulating - a more masculine man that implies "healthy" DNA. After ovulation - a less masculine man who will be more likely to help care for the child. Alright.

I was not happy with the introduction of the piece:
Step into any bar or party and it won't take you long to spot her. She's the woman with the ringing laugh, the daring clothes, the magnetic appeal that has drawn a circle of admirers around her. If the room were a solar system, she would be the sun—and at the outer reaches, you notice, are several other women seated quietly in her shadow.

But let's skip to the part that left me gaping - really saying "Are you kidding me?!"

The lead up is that birth control puts women in a false state of pregnancy, inhibiting her body from releasing another egg. However, since a woman is "more attractive" when she's in estrus, being on birth control puts her at a disadvantage in the game of love. (Can you see where this is going...?)

Here's the culprit of my cringe:
By the same token, says Gallup, if you're in a line of work in which your income depends on snap evaluations by others—a waitress, say, or a lap dancer—taking birth control pills "is like shooting yourself in the foot," since you miss out on the bountiful tips garnered by women in estrus. (bold mine)

She cites studies that show that ovulating women make more in these professions than those who aren't, but here's the message this particular excerpt, and the whole piece in general, seems to make: Taking birth control will make you less attractive and less rich! 

I'm still struggling with how to respond. But inserting such a quote, which does more than suggest a woman shouldn't take birth control is a bad choice on the part of the writer.

Vitamin Pills: Not the Redundancy It Sounds

As part of my science news column in The Free George (which I am no longer doing, but hope someone else continues it!), I wrote about a new birth control pill that contains the supplement folate. Please find it reproduced here, with helpful links.

The Pill: Now With Even More Protection
The human neural tube, the future brain and spinal cord, closes 27 days after conception. This means that an embryo just three to four millimeters long already sports the defining characteristics of a vertebrate, perhaps even before the mother knows she is pregnant.
Improper closing of the tube can result in spina bifida or anencephaly. Overall, neural tube defects occur in a surprising 1 in 500 live births. However, 50 percent of them could be prevented, researchers say. The answer lies in folic acid.
Recently, Bayer HealthCare has won approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its new oral contraceptive Beyaz, which combines the estrogen and progestin of its popular Yaz contraceptive with a folate supplement.  The new pill is designed to protect a fetus from neural tube defects in case of an unplanned pregnancy – either because of a contraception failure or because some women become pregnant soon after they stop using contraceptives without taking prenatal vitamins. 
An article in Time Magazine’s Healthland points out a certain irony that this pill provides for pregnancy while aiming to prevent it. But the critical role of folic acid in early human development warrants the precaution. Not to mention that it helps an adult body as well in building new cells. So if you’re not eating enough leafy greens, citrus fruits, or pastas, the addition may be helpful beyond a future embryo’s needs. While the folate supplement seems worthwhile, is it the beginning of a trend? Will oral contraceptives become “horse pills” – all-in-one “just in case” vitamins?
NEW: I told a friend about it later, and she made an insightful comment that I wanted to share: does adding folate to the pill subtly affect a woman's choice in keeping an unplanned pregnancy? Is it meant to? One of the many reasons that women choose to end pregnancies is because the embryo and/or growing fetus may have been damaged due to the behaviors of the mother when she didn't know she was pregnant. Like drinking or smoking. Or not taking the prenatal supplements that safeguard against certain developmental abnormalities. Can those on the pro-life side now use these new birth control pills to their advantage? Taking away the "excuse" that the child may have been adversely affected in the womb?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Frig and Tornado

Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
My refrigerator is getting replaced this weekend! The news came after I had given up any hope of living without an appliance that makes the sound of a mosquito (a giant mosquito that is).

Also, yesterday there was a tornado (the tornado label not verified by weather officials yet) in my neighborhood. And, well, I was oblivious. I got back to my apartment from class about 35 seconds before the rain started falling (~5:30pm). There had been thunder and lightening for a while. So, naturally, I just expected a thunderstorm. Then, about 4 minutes later came the sound of things being violently thrown at my back window. I investigated. Just branches most likely. The storm only lasted for 10-15 minutes in my area of Brooklyn.

Later that evening, I heard a chainsaw going. My first thought was: that's creepy. Just not a sound you would be expecting in a city. After it had been going for awhile, it finally dawned on me that they were probably cutting up some fallen branches. No biggy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Apartment in Brooklyn

 I’ve lived in my apartment for thirteen days. I still haven’t mastered the three-knob combination in my bathtub to halt water flow. And I’m still unsure of how to prepare a meal when your only surfaces are the bottom of the sink and the top of the stove. Still, I am now positive of the most important thing to have in an apartment: sanity. What threatens mine? My refrigerator.

Within minutes of plugging it in, I turned to my mom, who was helping me move, and said, “I hope that ringing sound stops. It’s annoying.” She replied, “You’ll get used to it.”

I’m not talking about the rumblings of a working appliance. This frequency is similar to that of an older television, except this ‘TV’ is the size of a refrigerator and can’t be turned off. If only it was annoying. If only I could get used to it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


 INTERESTS:  And you would probably look forward to “writing” your résumé if it was a compilation of things you liked in life:
  • A list of your favorite books and those you want to make time for
  • A collage of your top ten Facebook pictures
  • A folder of your elementary school artwork
  • A leaf of a tree from your backyard or a shell you found at the beach

Unfortunately, although résumés act as a means of self-validation, they’re not written for ourselves. Concerned about how others will perceive you and caught up with the wants of your prospective employer or society, obsessing over what font to use while you should be out continuing to write on that slate, can make you contemplate adding annoyed to your traits.

The bitterness of defining yourself for another person who may not see your worth is captured by the definition of résumé on urbandictionary.com, a website on which users post definitions of common words and then others rate them: “It’s a document with which the employer cleans his a** after you leave it with him, generally after an interview. Example sentence: Leave your résumé on the desk; I’ll take a look at it.” Yes, a résumé makes you vulnerable. 

REFERENCES:  But once you’ve finished it, it’s physical proof you’ve accomplished your objective: your experiences have embedded you into the world. Even though getting the position you want isn’t about blood or money (for the sake of this ideological argument), it certainly does depend on social capital. When you can reference where you’ve worked, who you’ve worked for, and what you’ve achieved, it means you’re a part of a network of people.

The résumé is one of your references itself. Although it will never define you, or encompass who you are, your résumé gives a reader a glimpse into the journey of your life. You decided you wanted to become a butcher and you did it. Or now you want to be a high school English teacher and here’s why the last four years working as a cashier make you qualified. 

Do you need a piece of paper to confirm your value as a human being? Absolutely not. However, who knows who will read your résumé and what they’ll read between the lines of your experience as a law office intern or a retirement home waiter?  

Darlene Wilson, the production manager of the Glens Falls, New York branch of Genpak, a national foodservice packaging company, says that she “feel[s] there’s always more to the person than what the résumé says.” One of the most important things she looks for in a résumé when hiring is balance, and although education is certainly a considering factor, “degree(s) don’t always equal common sense or the skill needed for the job.” If you want to get an interview, she suggests putting in a statement that you are willing to learn and do what it takes to get the job done, indicating that you’re a motivated person. And, honestly, if any of the fears of not getting recognized or anxieties of putting yourself out there manifest themselves as you sit down to write your résumé, you have to be motivated, and courageous, to continue. 

Look forward: to the job you may get, to the career you may have, to the person you may be. Look forward to spilling your accomplishments onto a CV as your résumé grows beyond one page. Look forward to the day that you see a résumé doesn’t show who you are, but you couldn’t care less because you’re out living.

If all else fails, and your identity crisis won’t go away, remember, we’re all mad here. No one knows who they are; we’re just at different skill levels of faking it. So include that copy of your résumé in hopes of adding another bullet, and then go read the next book on your list, or go outside to smell the lilacs, or go to your kitchen and practice pouring milk.