Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Qui bono?

Texas has become the first state to enact legislation requiring girls age 12 & up be vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus; 18 states and the District of Columbia are considering similar measures. Ostensibly at issue is the desire to protect young women from a potentially fatal disease - not HPV itself, but cervical cancers which can develop in very rare cases in women with HPV infection.

Why would a government mandate intervention in a health issue that is not one of epidemiology? To date, vaccines have only been required for deadly diseases spread by casual contact, with the aim of preventing epidemics. In the case of the HPV vaccine, government is being heavily lobbied by Merck, the pharmaceutical company that developed the only vaccine available, and which stands to profit to the tune of a billion dollars if even a few states enact the legislation on the table.

You may already have seen the infomercials aired by Merck - the black-and-white images of "real" women saying that if they knew of something that would help their sisters, mothers, daughters, they would surely tell. Well, of course - only a monster would withhold such information. The ads are long on emotion; however, short on facts. Here are a few things all women should know about HPV and cervical cancer, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control (emphasis mine):

All types of HPV can cause mild Pap test abnormalities which do not have serious consequences. Approximately 10 of the 30 identified genital HPV types can lead, in rare cases, to development of cervical cancer. Research has shown that for most women (90 percent), cervical HPV infection becomes undetectable within two years. Although only a small proportion of women have persistent infection, persistent infection with "high-risk" types of HPV is the main risk factor for cervical cancer.

A Pap test can detect pre-cancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix. Regular Pap testing and careful medical follow-up, with treatment if necessary, can help ensure that pre-cancerous changes in the cervix caused by HPV infection do not develop into life threatening cervical cancer. The Pap test used in U.S. cervical cancer screening programs is responsible for greatly reducing deaths from cervical cancer. For 2004, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 10,520 women will develop invasive cervical cancer and about 3,900 women will die from this disease. Most women who develop invasive cervical cancer have not had regular cervical cancer screening.

The vaccine developed by Merck addresses only 4 of the 30 types of HPV and does not address any other causes of cervical cancer - so the idea that this vaccine will do away with cervical cancer is misleading.

Who stands to benefit the most from the Merck vaccine? At what point do we as a society begin to put women's health issues ahead of corporate profit?

The series of three shots will cost each woman $360 - multiply by the approximately 80 million women of reproductive age in this country. That's a big enough chunk of change to justify a few million on TV ads! In addition to the television campaign, Merck funnels money through a political interest group called Women in Government. Neither Merck spokespersons nor Women in Government leadership will disclose exactly how much money. But it is known that Merck doubled its spending on lobbyists in Texas (to $250,000 this year) to push the vaccine bill into law there.

Call me cynical, but I don't believe the nice people at Merck are laying out all this cash to benefit me...

Merck is the manufacturer of Vioxx, the anti-inflammatory drug that was rushed to market in 1999 as a miracle treatment for arthritis. Vioxx was pulled in 2004, when it became linked with increased risk of heart attack. As of December 2006, the company faced approximately 27,000 personal injury lawsuits, and had set aside $1.6 billion to pay damages. Someone's going to foot that bill...and apparently, Merck intends that 'someone' to be every woman in this country.

I don't know - or care - what can be done about Merck's bottom line. But as for cervical cancer, the Pap test is a widely accepted, highly effective and affordable method of prevention. Women without health insurance can receive free or low-cost screening for cervical cancer (a Pap test) through programs funded by the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program, or through Planned Parenthood.

Take care of yourself - no one else is going to!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hope springs eternal

So, I had lunch with two colleagues on Saturday, and after a very satisfying bit of catching up over soup and crusty bread, we decided to pop in to the Ulta shop across the parking lot from our restaurant.

I can't post photos of my friends without their permission, but they are both very attractive women - physically, and personality-wise. One is in her late 20s, the other in her late 30s. I, in my mid-40s, am considerably less attractive, but reasonably well-turned-out. All three of us have master's degrees, and one of my friends is a month away from defending her doctoral dissertation, so we're not exactly slouches, intellectually. I give these details to assure the reader that, between the three of us, we have quite a bit "going on". Yet, the moment we walked into Ulta, we underwent a transformation. No longer self-assured and happy with our lot in life, we became Hopeful.

By some alchemy of the fragrant atmosphere and glittering mirrors, we lost the critical faculty that allows us to discern the inflated claims of cosmetics marketers. We wanted to believe that our chemically stressed hair could be "transformed from the inside out"; that our winter-dry lips could be "plumped to a level of lusciousness most women only dream about". We soberly consulted over whether our undereye circles were sufficiently dark to justify a $95 corrective treatment.

When one friend, whose wavy, long blonde hair is her crowning glory, picked up a $200 straightening iron, it was like a dash of cold water in the face of a sleepwalker. I looked her straight in her Maybellined eyes and said, "No. Not just no, but Hell No." Then all three of us glanced sheepishly at the collection we had amassed in our shopping basket - at least $300 worth of makeup - and one by one began to put things back.

And it was hard! We had become like magpies in our acquisitiveness - each glistering tube, each tiny compact, so damn cute it almost hurt - how could we pass these up?

I ended up with a Smashbox tinted moisturizer and one pot of eyeshadow. One friend bought a couple bottles of nailpolish. The other made a bigger splash - we didn't succeed in talking her out of the straightening iron - but she vowed this was her last Ulta visit for the year.

As I dabbed on my new moisturizer this morning, I thought about my friends. I wondered whether they felt prettier today, and if it would make a difference in their relationships and interactions with others?

Monday, January 15, 2007


This is really sad. Only three posts in six months. Apparently other people care more about me keeping this blog going than I do. Guess I need to decide whether to let it go or not...

In the meanwhile, my answers to a meme tossed at me by Trina at My Life My Words My Mind.

4 jobs I've had:
Waitress/barmaid (while in college)
Copy editor for a small town newspaper
Christian education director for an Episcopal church
Museum educator

4 movies I'd watch over and over:
If you were hoping for sophisticated choices, I'm sorry to disappoint...
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Get Shorty
Love Actually
and the seasonally obligatory Miracle on 34th Street

4 places I've lived, apart from where I live now:
Guess I don't get around much, as I only have three -
Akron, Ohio, "Rubber (as in "tires", so get your mind out of the gutter) Capital of the World" and birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous. I grew up within walking distance of the Goodyear blimp airdock.
Greensburg, Pennsylvania It's completely unremarkable, go ahead, see for yourself.
Athens, Ohio (home of Ohio University, "Harvard on the Hocking")

4 TV shows I love:
Mystery on PBS - consistently excellent series, no matter what detective is featured.
Scrubs - for its combination of hilarious dialogue and genuine human dilemma.
The Antiques Roadshow - I love watching the people when they are told the value of their stuff.
South Park. What can I say?

4 places I've been on holiday:
Nags Head, North Carolina (about a dozen times) - surfable waves, fishing, hangliding from the highest sand dunes in North America, seafood to die for, lighthouses...
Albuquerque/Santa Fe, New Mexico - high desert landscape, skiing, petroglyphs, Native American, Mexican and early Spanish art...
Montreal, Quebec, Canada - click on the link to see live photos of this beautiful city
Lake Erie islands - vineyards, bike trails, maritime history, and geode caves you can stand up in.

4 websites I visit daily:
eBay -yep, I'm addicted to the world's largest flea market.
MakeUp Alley - don't buy beauty products without checking out the product reviews.
The New York Times - all the news that fit to . . . click.
Weather Underground

4 favorite foods:
Chocolate, in all its marvelous incarnations
Oyster fritters
Fresh tomato sandwiches (whole wheat toast, tomato slices, homemade mayonnaise, salt and pepper)
Potatoes, for their versatility

4 places I'd rather be right now:
Here is good, but I also want to be in
(A) Boston to help my daughter with wedding preparations, and
(B) Paris for that long-dreamed-of trip I've been promising myself that will now be postponed a bit due to (A).

4 books I enjoy re-reading:
Matthew Fox's Original Blessing
The Bible (these days, I am enjoying Eugene Peterson's paraphrase version, The Message)
anything by Thich Nhat Hanh
anything by Jane Austen

4 CDs that never leave my rotation:
Honestly, I change 'em up so often, I can't answer this question.

4 people I'm tagging:
J, of Slap Of The Day
Annie of Blogdorf Goodman
Mireille of C'est Chic
and hoping to lure my friend Neela, of Life In Paris, out of retirement!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A few of my favorite things

My poor abandoned blog is being resurrected at the invitation of one of my favorite bloggers, Annie. She put no constraints on what could be included on the list, so, here goes...

My biggest beauty obsession has always been fragrance. And for me, fragrance-wise, 2006 has been a year of return to vintage scents. Hardly any new scents have made it onto my dressing table. In fact, I have found myself remarkably uninterested in even trying new launches, as the ones I have tried have been smell-alikes, reminding me vaguely of each other or seeming like 'versions of' prior successes. I'm beginning to think the proverb is true - there's nothing new under the sun. But, oh, the delights of vintage!

In 2006, I discovered - or rediscovered - these favorites:

Caron Acaciosa - Born in 1929 of Ernest Daltroff's genius, Acasiosa is a weird, wonderful floral that combines sultry jasmine with honey and pineapple. I'm not kidding - somehow, way back in the '20s, Daltroff managed the most realistic honey and pineapple that even modern perfumers, with all their headspace technology, have not been able to approximate. (Perhaps Serge Lutens should send spies to pilfer the formula from the Caron vaults, because his recent attempts at honey have had more the odor of day-old peed pants.) Acaciosa is available from the fabled urns at Caron boutiques (photo from Caron's website).

Dior Dioressence - The current incarnation of Dioressence has been one of my go-to scents since I discovered it a couple of years ago, thanks to friends on MakeUp Alley. Luca Turin, in his 1994 Perfume Guide, stated that the version now available has been trimmed of all the rich complexity that once merited the label "barbaric", leaving behind a merely interesting contrast between fruity and animalic notes. In my ignorance, I thought it enough. But this year, I was privileged to try the vintage parfum. {sigh} Did I say "privileged"? I think I meant "desolated" - why must the best scents be taken from us? I have acquired a small bottle of vintage eau de toilette, to which I turn for comfort whenever the thought of life's fleeting beauty threatens to overwhelm.

Balmain Jolie Madame - Another bold beauty whose current version has changed significantly from former glories, but is still well worth wearing. I own both the vintage parfum and the more recent eau de toilette, and they are exquisite layered together. The vintage scent plays up the greater contrast between animalic and herbal notes, but the modern version features a really beautiful iris heart.

Habanita de Molinard - Dusky beauty whose bottle is the perfect expression of the juice. Described by one reviewer as "evil baby powder", which I find really amusing since it's actually very much a comfort scent for me. Read into that what you will. The concreta, a natural wax-based formula invented by Molinard in 1925, is the perfect medium for applying the scent at bedtime.

Okay, one 2006 release has made it into my Top 5:

Patou Sira des Indes - Another weirdly fruity floral to neatly bracket the leathers and spices of my other favorites. Sira des Indes is very much in the same vein as Caron Acaciosa - from the indolic jasmine to the sweet heart of fruits, only here it is banana rather than pineapple. Anyone who has seen me rant (on MakeUp Alley) about the predominance of insipid fruity florals - the BBW-ization of the fragrance scene - might be shaking her head at this selection. But neither Sira nor Acaciosa are edible fruits - they are strictly for adornment. Indeed, there is an almost waxy quality to both of these scents that save them from being gourmand, at least to my nose. I really can't explain or justify my liking for them, beyond saying that both are exquisite examples of what an imaginative perfumer can do - nature, improved.

In addition to my top 5 fragrances of the year, I offer for your consideration:

Favorite men's scent:
- Launched in 2002, so I'm late to the party, but this is one of my favorite men's scents ever. According to Basenotes.com, the notes are bergamot, mandarin, rosemary, vetiver, agarwood, amber, musk and mandrake root. I don't know what exactly mandrake root is supposed to smell like, but I find no similarity between this scent and Annick Goutal's Mandragore...so maybe it's a fantasy interpretation. Agarwood predominates, to my nose - the drydown of M7 smells just like some Japanese agarwood incense I have. Smooshy-squooshy good on my dear hubby, and I've been known to sneak a dab myself.

Favorite shampoo:
Brocato Splassh
- A sulfate-free shampoo that is soooo kind to my color-treated hair, and it has a luscious cherry-almond scent. Available at Ulta at quite a decent price if you're smart and get the BOGO quarts.

Favorite mascara:
Bourjois Talons Aiguilles
- I neglected to review this, having gotten really lazy with my blog right about the time of the great Mascara Madness, back in the Spring. But this "lengthening and curving" mascara in a dark, bronzey-brown has become my daily number.

Favorite nail polish:
OPI Rockette Red
- I don't polish my fingernails, but nothing makes me feel prettier than a nice pedicure. OPI released the Rockettes collection for the holidays. Rockette Red is the perfect neutral red without a trace of shimmer. Goes on like the paint job on my dad's 1973 Dodge Charger. Fast.

Favorite reading matieral:
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Author Michael Pollan examines what he calls "our national eating disorder," taking into consideration the ethical, spiritual, health and environmental issues that stem from our ability - and willingness - to eat almost anything nature produces. He follows the food chain behind industrial, "organic", and small-farm/sustainable markets, and questions assumptions about our food choices. This book should be required reading for everyone who eats.

For more favorite lists, please visit...

All About the Pretty
Beauty Addict
Beauty Blogging Junkie
Beauty By Nadine
Beautiful Makeup Search
Beauty Hatchery
Beauty Jones
Blogdorf Goodman
Bois de Jasmin
BonBons in the Bath
Brain Trapped in Girl's Body
Capitol Hill Barbie
C'est Chic
Crazy Jay Blue
eBeauty Daily
Girl's Handbook
Koneko's Mostly Beauty Diary
Makeup Bag
My Muse
No one knows why the wolf laughs
Now Smell This
Perfume Smellin' Things
Peppermint Patty's Perfume Posse
Platinum Blond Life
Product Girl
Slap of the Day
The Customer Is Always Right
The Daily Obsession
The Great She Elephant
The Life of a Ladybug
The Non-Blonde
Urbane Girl
Victoria's Own

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Difference Between Men and Women

This has been floating around the internet for who knows how long. I received it in e-mail and laughed so hard, I just have to share. A kind reader has informed me that this is from Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys. Figures - I love Dave Barry!

Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anyone else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

There is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

Roger is thinking: Six months.

Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward...I mean, where are we going? Are we just going
to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy?

Roger is thinking...so that means it was...let's see...February when we started going out, which means...lemme check the odometer...Whoa! I am overdue for an oil change here.

Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed - even before I sensed it - that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a freakin' garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieving cretin b@st@rds six hundred dollars.

Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty, the scumballs.

Elaine is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a "__*#$%!*__" warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their...

"Roger" Elaine says aloud.

"What?" says Roger, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have...Oh God, I feel so..." (She breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Roger.

"I'm such a fool," Elaine sobs. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Roger.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Elaine says.

"No!" says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's just that...It's that I...I need some time," Elaine says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

"Yes," he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

"Oh Roger, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Roger.

"That way about time," says Elaine.

"Oh," says Roger. "Yes."

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

"Thank you, Roger," she says.

"Thank you," says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lays on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovaks he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it.

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: "Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"

Friday, July 28, 2006

Awkward moment

I waited for the elevator.


The door slid open, and as it did, I overheard this comment:

"I had no idea it would kill him."

Stepped into the elevator as the two women, one wearing a nurse's uniform, glanced at each other and fell silent.

They got off at the next floor without saying another word, so I could not know which of them had spoken.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A death in the opposite house...

There's been a death in the opposite house
As lately as to-day.
I know it by the numb look
Such houses have alway.

The neighbors rustle in and out,
The doctor drives away.
A window opens like a pod,
Abrupt, mechanically;

Somebody flings a mattress out--
The children hurry by;
They wonder if It died on that--
I used to when a boy.

The minister goes stiffly in
As if the house were his,
And he owned all the mourners now,
And little boys besides;

And then the milliner, and the man
Of the appalling trade,
To take the measure of the house.
There'll be that dark parade

Of tassels and of coaches soon;
It's easy as a sign--
The intuition of the news
In just a country town.

-- Emily Dickinson

My next-door neighbor's recent sudden death was not an occasion for mattress-flinging. No communicable disease to worry about - no, a smoking, drinking, somewhat overweight man of 51 years, he was overcome by the obvious. When I came home from work to see an ambulance and fire truck in front of the house, I was afraid there had been an accident. Then they stayed way too long - 15 minutes at least - and when they finally wheeled Don out on a stretcher and had to stop halfway down the driveway to pound his chest some more, I knew it was bad news.

It looked like plenty of people rustled in and out the day before the funeral. We had to go out of town and so missed any sign of tassels and coaches, but we returned five days later to find that Don's sons had pulled a protective cover over his prized vintage Lincoln Continental, the restoration of which had been his chief hobby. The pall over that vehicle seems to extend over the whole house, and there hasn't been any coming or going since we got home.

As my husband and I began to make love last night, I caught a glimpse of the neighboring house through our bedroom window and thought of the new widow. I quickly looked away, as if to avoid a different kind of contagion.