Category: Politics of Health
I’ve recently begun to notice that some mornings I get a rash on both cheekbones. It goes away in about a day, so I never thought much about it. Martha changed the detergent that we use on the bed sheets, but that had no real effect. I though it might be related to putting my hands on my face (since I write computer code in the AM and often prop my chin on my hand when debugging lines of code). But changing my 'pensive posture' had no effect either.
The last few nights I’ve crashed on the sofa in the den since I’ve been trying to catch up on the wonderful HBO series on John Adams. Surprisingly, these few nights, despite sleeping propped up on the most uncomfortable throw pillows imaginable, produced no rash. However this last night Martha came out and gave me one of the bedroom pillows. Next morning, alas, the rash was back. This got me thinking that something was in these pillows, or I just don’t get along with the pillow covers.
So off we went to Linens N’ Things, a franchise full of extraneous stuff you can buy for your house. I picked up a few hypoallergenic pillows (the old ones were down) and some new covers. The pillow covers had a few interesting, if unsettling facts included with the label:
- Your mattress will double in weight every ten years from dust mites and their droppings.
- 10% of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is composed of dust mites and their droppings.
Household dust, by the way, is a mainly human skin cells that have sloughed off. It is estimated that the entire outer layer of skin is shed every day or two at a rate of 7 million skin flakes per minute. Tests of indoor environmental dust in homes and offices have shown it to be primarily (70-90%) composed of skin flakes.
Tried the new pillows last night and so far no rash.
While at Linens N’ Things my daughter Emily and I played our new game which we call “Try To Find Something In The Store Not Made In China.’ It took a while but eventually I found a chopping block that was made in the U.S. Virtually 90% of the stock of this store was stuff ‘Made In China’. I’m told that the percentage in Wal-Mart is even higher.
Now, I have nothing personal against the Chinese, but I do not like the long-term significance of this trend. We in the US are being lulled and seduced into over-purchasing inexpensive goods from China, which destroy our local industries, increase credit card debt, and send our currency over there. Since the Chinese are not terribly interested in American products, they send the money back here in the form of business loans, many of which fronted the now collapsing home mortgage market.
I remember laughing in history class at how the local Indians sold Manhattan to the Dutch for $24 worth of mirrors and glass beads. Yet we're doing the same thing; the only difference being the substitution of modern day equivalents; plasma TV screens and vibrating recliners.
On top of it all, China is still as repressive a government as it ever was. There is no true freedom of speech, and rural workers are almost considered second-class citizens. Never mind what they are doing in Tibet right now and that their policy in Darfur is cynical beyond belief. Add the recent heparin scare and the mercury and lead in the painted toys and I'm thinking 'hey, this system does not need to be rewarded.'
So I’ve adopted what I call my 'New Organic' policy: Just like I am willing to pay a bit more to feed my family organic produce, I am now also willing to pay more to clothe my family in goods made in other countries besides China. I will pass up on the need to purchase George Foreman Grills, Fabreeze Room Fresheners and resin lawn furniture unless I can find products that are made by the inhabitants of democratic countries with decent human rights policies, ethical manufacturing standards and proper environmental responsibilities.
Yes, there will be less things in my life, but maybe that is the real hidden benefit of it all.
This week's TIME magazine featured an execrable perspective on The GenoType Diet courtesy of columnist Andrea Sachs. In a column called Calorie Countdown she treats TIME readers to an array of her opinions on the various 'notable diets of 2008.'
The GenoType Diet gets short shrift from the pen of Ms. Sachs. In an analysis which appears to me no deeper than the back cover of the book's dust jacket (while also deriving substantial inspiration from The Fifth Dimension) she writes:
By Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo, with Catherine Whitney (Broadway; 317 pages). Naturopathic physician D'Adamo has identified six "GenoTypes"--the Hunter, the Gatherer, the Teacher, the Explorer, the Warrior and the Nomad--and gives food dos and don'ts for each. The book comes off about as scientific as telling Scorpios they should eat only food grown when Jupiter aligns with Mars.
Trying to learn more about who writes this type of article for America's most beloved weekly illustrated magazine, I retrieved this biography off the TIMES.com site:
Andrea Sachs is a former English major whose dreams were fulfilled when she became TIME's publishing reporter in 1995. What could be better than interviewing authors, reading fabulous new books, and going to publishing parties?
I guess Goethe was right. You do see what you know. Ms. Sachs never interviewed me, and seems to have not actually read my 'fabulous new book.' As far as the parties... well.
Some people seem to just get things wrong. One can only suppose that in world of Andrea Sachs I actually think that the universe splits up into Teachers and Nomads and that Teachers should teach stuff and Nomads should wander around. Those are just memes. Science writers often do this in an attempt to bring complex characterizations to life for laymen. That, as any good English major should know, is called a literary device. Read The Seven Daughters of Eve by Brian Sykes for a similar treatment. In the last third of the book Sykes writes narratives about fictional clan mothers ('Helena', 'Tara', etc.) which correspond to one (or more) human mitochondrial haplogroups.
A friend of mine was fond of saying that "You can always spot the pioneers. They are the folks with the arrows in their backs."
Now, that's real science.
*. The phrase 'file under futile' is from 'Back In Judy's Jungle' by Brian Eno
It's interesting to gauge the expert reactions to this diet theory. A lot of professionals, including a few naturopathic colleagues, seem to think that they have to abandon every long-held notion to accept (or maybe allow) this idea to penetrate their thinking.
Personally, I think this is wide of the mark. The BTD and the GTD are concepts that can be used in a wide variety of permutations, certainly much more than simply determining a person's blood type and giving them diet advice.
Perhaps if they just relaxed their shoulders and bit and slowly exhaled, they might discover that the idea really doesn't require you to 'Drink the Koolaid'.
As my colleague Dr. Natalie Colicci said to me the other day, 'these are all healthy, whole foods diets... with perhaps the added value of having a better than average benefit in some folks versus others.'
The etymology of pathos, pathetic and pathological are all the same. They come from the Greek word ('pathologia') that is the name for the study of emotions.
Can you judge a book by its cover? What about if you don't even have a cover?
Recently my publisher leaked a tidbit about The GenoType Diet to one of those glossy woman's magazines. In an article of perhaps two whole paragraphs the editors chose to mention my book and another one I had never heard of as two of the new books on genes and diet.
Anyway, after a quick trial and summary execution from the resident expert, the reader was essentially advised to read the book not written by me.
Now, in case you don't already know, virtually all the women's magazines are the lock and stock domain of organization shills for professional nutrition associations, which is why the advice in these ad-driven magazines is so generic and inoffensive. Though they act the part of impartial consumer advocates, most glossy womens magazines are in the diet business themselves, usually cranking out a 'new' one with every issue.
I doubt that the resident experts ever laid eyes on a copy of The GenoType Diet. The manuscript wasn't ready in time to send them a galley copy.
So here we are. 'Experts' now tell us to avoid reading something they've never read.
So now the eminent James Watson has stuck his foot in his mouth, adding to the long list of accomplished geneticists and behaviorists who perish in the minefield of actually saying what you believe. We'll add him to the club, which includes the great William Shockley, inventor of the transistor and those guys that wrote the Bell Shaped Curve.
He has courted controversy in the past, reportedly saying that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine that it would be homosexual. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, proposing a theory that black people have higher libidos, and claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured.
Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA (along with Francis Crick, although one could make a strong case for some skulduggery concerning their 'expropriating' much of the work of Rosalind Franklin) ignited an uproar last week with remarks about the intelligence of people of African descent.
The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.
Utter hogwash. "Intelligence" has long been shown to be undefinable, largely because it is heavily subject to cultural, environmental and financial filters. Even more significantly, it is more likely determined at the epigenetic level (postgenomically) than at the levels of the genes themselves, being influenced by the health habits of the immediately preceding generations, or even more likely, the prenatal environment of the child.
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," so perhaps Watson's gaff is just the result of having too many people kissing his butt for too long a time.
Have started learning the R computer language. Perl's graphic and statistic packages are quite weak, and a quick look at R shows me that the graphing capabilities alone are awesome. A lot of the multivariate data that was used in the GenoType Diets may fit in very well with this language, since most people have a hard time visualizing data in more than 3 dimensions, though in mathematics this is not a big problem. Perl remains my preferred language (mainly for sure quick and dirtiness; it's amazing just how fast you can get something up and going in Perl) and for 'data mining' (or perhaps in my case, 'data dredging').
Well, gotta go. The car service is picking Martha and I up in an hour to take us to the airport. We're headed up to Toronto where I'll be giving one of the presentations to the Ontario Naturopathic Doctors Association. It's a homecoming of sorts, since we lived up there for a while about twenty years ago. It's definitely one of my favorite cities, and I like attitude of the people at lot.