Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Case in point

New York Times has a New article today on how drug companies aren't fulfilling their promise of making their studies available to the public.

Some of the women I worked with last summer were in favor of state-operated pharmaceutical compaines. Generally I'm uncomfortable with that notion -- I still believe the market can, in many cases, do things better and more efficiently than the government. My chief exception is healthcare, which I whole heartedly believe belongs in the government's, not the market's, hands. But my free-market feelings towards drug companies are changing, and this excerpt isn't stopping that evolution:

Eli Lilly and some other companies have posted hundreds of trial results on the Web and pledged to disclose all results for all drugs they sell. But other drug makers, including Merck and Pfizer, release less information and are reluctant to add more, citing competitive pressures. (Italics mine)


In this case, the market is keeping the companies from disclosing vital information. It's especially troubling because Merck's Vioxx fueled ths controversy more than any other drug. Yet they still refuse to comply.

The pharmaceutical companies don't need to be de-privatized in order to remedy this; we just need the new FDA branch to actually come into existence. If we can establish an arm of the FDA specifically targeting safety and efficacy, many of these problems could be fixed. This new branch is more feasible than ever, thanks to all the controversy, it's up to Congress and the Administration now. Unfortunately that allocation of responsibility doesn't give me much hope.

Deep whatever

Anyone else feeling a bit disappointed with Deep Throat's identity? I mean, just some FBI guy. I was hoping it was Rehnquist. Ezra and I rented "All the Presidents Men" about a month ago, and since then I've been incredibly curious about Deep Throat's identity. Now I'm totally uninterested.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Tis Magic!

In the final edition of Epiphanies: So-cal style, a post from The O.C.

Ezra and I are hanging out at his mom's when she brings out two gigantic boxes. Inside these boxes is the legendary Magic Bullet , mom explains, which Ezra's little sister has been coveting for many weeks. She finally broke down during her umpteenth viewing of the infomercial, and because she called in next 18 minutes(!!!!) got two.

Within five minutes Ezra's sister bursts in the door squealing with joy at the Magic Bullet's much anticipated arrival. She begins struggling with one of the 3 foot high boxes, finally pulling out the styrofoam innard. At this point, my curiosity is peaked -- what, oh what could this gadget be? Is it truly magic? Does it come with a gun to put its magic bullets in?

She opens up the styrofoam casing, revealing an assemblage of plastic cups and black bottoms.

Wait a minute-- this is no magic gun! There are no magic bullets!!! It's a food processor/blender in disguise! All for a hefty price tag of $140, mind you.


Ezra's sister immediately fondles the different parts, ooing and aahing. I grab the "Magic Bullet 10 Second Recipes" booklet. Inside I found some fascinating information about the unbelievable technology behind the Magic Bullet. For instance, did you know that the Magic Bullet has a pulse function? This feature is unique to the gadet's magical blending power. Yes, to engage the pulse function, you simply push down on the button for a second. The booklet admits this technique is a bit tricky, but once you master it, you will not believe how useful it is (after all, can't have all our food blended to mush). I thought better of telling his sister that my blender had an actual pulse button.

Next, she proceeds to raid the kitchen for any food that might taste good blended together. The first experiment? A banana and a cream popsicle. She engages the Magic Bullet -- it creates a pinkish gray gummy concoction, which she eats, giving the rest of us spoonfuls. She's about to shove a spoon in Ezra's mouth when he points out a huge chunk of banana that appears to have escaped the magic blending powers.

We leave her to her blending frenzy, overhearing all kinds of whirring and chopping sounds. A few minutes later, she exclaims "I MADE PESTO!!!!!" Now, Ezra and I are a bit perplexed by this development because, last we checked, there weren't any pesto ingredients in the house. I'm thinking -- pesto out of thin air! It is magic!

"What do you mean you made pesto???"

"I took the salad, and the gorgonzola, and the Italian dressing, and I put it in the Magic Bullet!"

"That's not pesto, you just blended a salad!"

Oh God. Before we can stop her, she's rushed into the living room, gigantic serving spoon in hand, and a cup full of green mush. She tries to shove it in Ezra's mouth, but can't seem to fit the enormous spoon in between his convulsions of laughter.

A good ten minutes later, with a sore stomach and wet eyes, Ezra gives his final commentary on the evening:

"Isn't 'magic bullet' also the name of a popular vibrator???"

Indeed.

I'll miss thee, Miss Universe

I have a horrible, terrible confession: I watched the opening of the Miss Universe pageant. I believe some explaining is in order.

When my sister and I were little, the pageants were much anticipated tv-watching events. Miss America, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe -- we watched them all with bated breath. I honestly dreamed that I could compete in Miss Teen USA . The fact that I was extremely short (my adult height is 5'0") and everyone else in the competition would be statue-esque -- no matter! I would beat them all with my unbelievable wit in the Q&A round.

Fast forward 10 years, and I'm having my usual weekend call with my parents. My dad informs me that they are watching the Miss Universe pageant (not that I didn't have any hints -- my dad kept saying things in the background like "is that Miss Sweden???"). Truly, I fear for my parents' sanity now that my sister and I have left home -- they watch Miss Univese sans daughters.

So, they planted the seed in my mind, and come 9pm, I'm not busy...so I turn it on. The parade that ensues is quite impressive. But it wasn't the visions of growing up to compete in the pageant that held my attention this time -- it was the embedded political messages that I couldn't ignore.

First off is the presentation of the countries. Obviously most of the Western and Latin American countries we're familiar with were included, along with a few African and Asian countries. But the countries themselves are completely depoliticized -- we have Miss Korea, though North or South is unspecified, it's certainly South. There's Israel, but no Palestine. According to our dear President, Iraq and Afghanistan are free -- though their most beatiful women must not be. I also have a feeling that it's against Muslim codes to parade around in the Swimsuit Competition. Further, every woman says her country's English name, not its name in her native tongue. You can tell some of them are really struggling to say the English name. For some reaosn this makes me angry.

Next on my pissed-off checklist is the unbelievably obvious class stratification these women embody. I'm sorry, but Miss Dominican Reublic??? She looks whiter than me. I've been to the Domincan Republic (or should I say Republica Domicana?) I've handed out medications in the poor villages at the center of the island. Domicans do not look like this woman -- they are very dark. The women are also educated eough to answer the final question round in English -- not exactly rags to riches beauties.

And last, the token Western beauty standard complaint. I'm sorry, but these women all have the exact same body, just different hair/eye colors. And they all look like Barbie.

So, I bid the girl in me's pageant dreams goodbye. I'm on to bigger and better things (health policy in D.C.!) while our Miss USA has no college degree and has studied Fashion Design.

Guess we can't each have it all...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Conflict of Interest

Roy Poses over at Health Care Renewal has a troubling post about the relationships between medical schools and pharmaceutical companies. Basically a survey was given to 122 med schools, asking if "In your best judgment, would your office allow a clause in a multi-center clinical-trial agreement saying that [x]," ... where [x] was questions like "The sponsor will own the data produced by the researcher" or "The sponsor will store the data and release portions to the investigator". The results of the study basically found:
In the aggregate, this data suggests that some medical school research administrators will approve contracts with industry that prevent the ostensible academic investigators from having meaningful control over the research project. Some will allow the for-profit companies that nominally only serve as funding sources for the trial to manipulate the design, analysis, and interpretation of results so that the results are likely to come out the way they want.

Further, researchers at medical schools are often responsible for coming up with their own project funding after their first couple years on staff. Many will turn to pharmaceutical comapanies and other for-profit entities to foot the bill. This just perpetuates the conflict of interest cycle, from the researcher's petri dish to the doctor's prescription pad -- Big Pharma has their hand in all of it. And they're assisted by the AMA, which for decades has proven it has nothing but its own best interest at heart.

I'm a newbie at the serious policy answers, and I'm unsure what political actions here are viable or realistic. It seems the best answer to the "what can we do about this?" question is to publicize it. We need to keep driving home that many, many doctors are in bed with pharmaceutical companies, and hopefully public outcry will lead to more ethical practices. So, go read the post, and tell your friends.

From Virtual to Reality

I bring you blogging from Los Angeles, the land of milk and honey... or is it traffic and breast implants?

In today's edition of blogging: So Cal style, I bring you the wonders of the US economy.

Ebay, the virtual auction block, the online giant, has spawned an in-the-concrete business (if that's not irony, I don't know what is). It's called (I kid you not) "I sold it on Ebay!" Apparently you bring your goods to the store and they'll sell them on Ebay for you. The wonders of this "service" economy...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ode to Victoria's Secret

Due to somewhat vague feminist reasoning, I've refused to set foot in Victoria's Secret for the last five years. I've always felt that this was a sacrifice on my part, and that I was denying myself the best lingerie money can buy so as not to compromise my feminist values.

I do have a happy history with ol' Vickie's. My two best friends and I spent many afternoons in 7th and 8th grade gathering up the nerves to go into Victoria's Secret and try things on! Although the most exciting ensemble I ever purchased was matching bra and underwear with a citrus pattern. That's right, the pure, unadulterated passion of lemons and limes. On my underwear.

I can only imagine the disappointment of those poor unsuspecting boyfriends/husbands/partners who happened upon the citrus set, excitedly undressing their partner only to discover the worst attempt at cute lingerie in the history of Victoria's Secret.

So last Saturday, while I was waiting around during my cell phone debacle (fear not dear reader, I'll tell that one another day), I decided to break my rule and check out what Victoria's Secret is up to these days. I'm happy to report I'm not missing much.

So, I thought my lemon/lime ensemble was the worst attempt at cute lingerie until I saw the downright vestigial underwear they're selling today. Why any woman would by this stuff is beyond me.

First, it is the most ultra-fem lingerie you can imagine. Vickie's has apparently abandoned their sexy vixen theme and moved on to what Barbie would design for her underwear if she had the materials delivered from Strawberry Shortcake. I'm not kidding, it's really that bad. This stuff was the pinkest, frilliest, puke-inducingest I have ever seen. And I browse the Ross lingerie, so I've seen some bad attempts. Here's case in point, if you're interested. I must admit that even this example is nothing compared to what was in the store. We're talking lace, bows, AND polkadots, folks.

Second, the material was mostly mesh. Rough mesh. All the women reading this can tell you that rough mesh makes for quite uncomfortable lingerie. It's a bit akin to wearing sandpaper.

Third, I called the bras vestigial because they are truly like vestiges of what real lingerie used to be. There's no possibility of ever wearing this stuff out of the house (unless it's to a lingerie party), because any shirt over the layers of bows and frills of these bras would make it look like you were sprouting bizarre unruly chest hair or some other oddity. Which leads me to my final objection:

These vestigial, ultra-fem, sorry excuses for lingerie cost between $40 and $50. I'm sorry, but most sane women of normal means would not pay $50 for a bra you can't even wear out of the house.

In sum, I'm completely delighted that now I can wear my non-Victoria's Secret lingerie in peace.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Best Quote

From a PBS clip we watched my econ class this morning, which interviewed congressmen who had recently returned from a committee trip to China:

One congresswoman, with complete awe in her voice:

"It was like one giant construction site!!"

-- Nita Lowey (D-NY)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Books I left Behind

Well, I've been tagged in a gratuitously favoritist manner by Ezra (thanks!) to list books I never read but feel like I should, or books I started but never finished. This is my very first meme-type thing, and I have a feeling I won't be so excited about it from now on. So while I'm still giddy, here it goes:

1. The Feminist Canon.

I am an ardent feminist, but I have serious issues when it comes to the literary grounding of my views. I own but have not read The Feminine Mystique and The Second Sex. And all the other feminist canon stuff. I'm terrible about that.

2. I did not finish One Hundred Years of Solitude. The book started out wonderfully; the world was so unique, the events so magical, and I was completely enthralled for 150 pages. Then I got really confused about the names and family relations, but perservered to about 250 pages. Finally I decided this book wasn't as great as everyone else thought it was, and I put it down and read American Dreams by Jason Deparle (it was time for a non-fiction).

3. I'm especially embarrassed about this one, and I'm unsure I should even mention it. I, Kate, started but could not get into ... Catch 22. There. I said it. I don't know why, but this book had no appeal to me. I read a good 60 pages and never felt a spark of inspiration, and generally disliked it.

4. I've never read Lolita and always felt I should. Like Ezra, I'm totally ignorant of classics, never read Faulkner, Joyce, etc. I'd also like to pick up something by Virginia Woolf.

5. Unlike Ezra, I was raised protestant and have read numerous sections of the bible (see post below). I have no desire to read the book in its entirety, because I fear my head will explode. I would, however, really like to read something by the Dalai Llama. I'm so struck by the beautiful tenents of Buddhism, and would like to explore the spiritual practices further.

Alright, done! That said, I am embarking, starting June 20, on an ambitious summer reading list. I suppose I must add some of the former to it. Any suggestions for my multi-disciplinary reading list are greatly appreciated.

I'm passing the torch to:

Sue, of Sue and not U because she is unbelievably hilarious and interesting, and I have to know what she reads.

And my friends Hannah and Callie

Crazy Crusaders

I just finished the NY Times article on evangelical ministries in Ivy League institutions. Fascinating stuff, and brought back some memories.

I went on my first youth group trip summer before freshman year of high school. It was a beach trip, we drove all the way from Kansas City to Jekyll Island, GA (a two day drive) in 15 passenger vans. Needless to say, tt was enormously fun. I was one of the youngest on the trip, so I felt all cool hanging out with upperclassmen. Mostly I played in the ocean and awkwardly flirted with this 17 year old guy. And on the side there was worship, which consisted of fun songs, games, and a little prayer and bible study.

This trip is the genius of evangelical institutions. You become completely indoctrinated without really noticing it; because, hey, you were there for the beach and the cute guys. Upon my return to Kansas City, I began attending youth group an average of three days a week. I loved it. Mostly because I got to see my best friends so often, the cute guys so often, and there were food and ridiculous games and songs. It was a bit like part-time camp.

Now, those same insitutions (well not quite the same; I attended youth group at my local church) are taking a similar tact and injecting it into all aspects of life. Truly, making church part of every sector of your life (home, work, vacations, school) is brilliant. It's made God inescapable. It also makes turning away from the church nearly impossible. At one time (say 20 years ago, I don't mean in the 50's) you could divorce yourself from God by just leaving your church. Now your entire social fabric, your colleagues, your education -- it's all steeped in Evangelicalism, which is good if you want it, but damned how you'll get out of it should you change your mind.

It's all a bit scary to me. The knowledge that Evangelicals are building these networks backed by millions of dollars feels distinctly threatening. But I guess I should feel comforted that their percent of the population (a whopping 25) has remained unchanged. For now...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Enough!

Dearest Downstairs Neighbors,

I want to take this opportunity to give you my heart felt thanks for sharing your excellent taste in music with me. I'm unsure how you found out that loud rhythmic base coming through the ceiling is my absolute fav, but you did! I appreciate that you make the effort to play my favorite music many times a week, often two or three times a day! That is dedication.

I also wanted to tell you how much I admire your perserverance!! Really, I'd no idea that someone who got visits from the police every other week for months would stick to their routine like superglue. Well, Downstairs Neighbors, you did it! I know you might think I'm sending the police to check out your genius music, but after the first ticket, I would have thought you'd get the hint. You truly deserve an award for refusing to change your music/party habits!

And the screaming...your vocal abilities are simply stunning! I'd no idea that people could make so many interesting sounds! Truly, dear Downstairs Neighbors, you've opened my eyes. I'm so, so grateful for all the things you've taught me by simply living below me. It's such great fun.

And, oh, one more thing:

Fuck You!

Sincerely,

Kate

SATC Bye Bye

I just finished the last four episodes of Sex and the City. I feel dumb blogging about it, but I figure I should get off my storytelling meme and prove I have feelings too! (Well, feelings that aren't related to coffee, that is)

I'm just making that leap forward, into being a "real bon-a-fide woman". This is evoking an unprecedented flow of sentimentality. As my favorite professor would say, I'm "sentimental to the fifth!" (sentimental^5... okay you might not get it, Ezra didn't) It's just.. I'm graduating. I'm leaving California in a couple months, I'm not going to be in school for the foreseeable future. That is so enormous on its own, simply because I've been attending school every year since I was five. I found this cd of all my favorite songs when I was 17. And I am in terrible touch with many of my old friends (hence the SATC sentimentality).

So watching the last episodes, where everyone is in flux, made me sentimental to the sixth. I guess I've been like Petrovsky was to Carrie, to myself. Santa Cruz has been terrible for me this year. I felt completely isolated, and I didn't do much about it. I gave in to feelings of mild depression by wasting a lot of time; in front of the tv, staring at my computer, sleeping. I was supposed to go out with a bang this year, with all A's and hopefully some solid career plans. The bang only lasted through fall quarter, and here I am withdrawn from one class, adding another in the fifth week, and amorphous career plans. The only things that kept me up to the plate this year were Ezra and the Gilmore Girls.

But, like everything came together in this great, ecstatic, beautiful pastiche in SATC, I think this summer will for me. Ezra and I will finally be back together, which makes such a difference in my day-to-day happinesss, it's stunning. I'll be working at an incredible organization, the Venice Family Clinic. I'm cutting myself off from television and starting an ambitious reading list. I will be done with school and homework, and best of all, it will be summer.

So, here's to a beautiful sunset on my time in California.
Here's to a new beginning as a career woman in DC,
Here's to love everlasting,
And so I never forget, here's to me.

Nanny, anyone?

It's a gorgeous day in Santa Cruz, so I, naturally, am ignoring the fact that the beach is two miles away and lounging around the pool at my apartment complex.

A mid thirties mom and three 6 year old girls arrive soon after. The girls begin furious assessments of the temperature of the pool, and whether they should get in the pool or hot tub ("the pool is cold like a real ocean!" "the hot tub has bubbles!")

Later, girls and mom, having decided bubbles are better than real ocean-temperature, are sitting in the hot tub, and another woman joins them. She has a thick accent and begins asking the girls their names. Unfortunately, the girls have non-standard English names, like "Claire" and "Sage", and I feel badly listening to the woman try to pronounce them. Mom asks the woman where she's from, and a peculiar conversation follows:

Woman: I'm from Turkey
Mom: Really, oh well we have two nannies from Turkey
Woman: Yes? What are their names?
(Mom says two Turkish names)
Woman: How much do you pay them?
Mom: Um, five dollars and hour
Woman: Do they have visas?
Mom: Um, I really don't know. They might have student visas
Woman: Where do they live?
Mom: Oh, they live on the Eastside
Woman: Ah, I have visa.

At this point, the mom must be in a panic. Is the woman going to barter with her for a nannying price? Is she feeling guilty that she's only paying $5/hr to watch her children, and that she doesn't even know if her below-minimum-wage laborer is in the country legally? Is she worried that this woman is a spy for the Homeland Security?

I'd like to say I know what followed, but at that point I was starting to look red and headed in. I can only imagine though...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nevermind

Okay, Coffeetopia. Listen to me, and listen good.

I spent the last post, a whole twenty minutes, extolling the virtues of your honorable coffee imbibing establishment. You even have a website! But funny, you forgot to mention on said website what I saw pasted on your carmel colored walls when I came in today:

"New Hours coming!
Starting Wendesday, June 1st, Coffeetopia will be open 6am to 6pm seven days a week.
We thank you all for your patronage and support!"

Oh no you didn't.

First of all, don't take that pleasant, cheery, god-awful tone with me. "New Hours Coming!!!" I thought you were going to make my dreams come true, to extend your way too early closing time of 9pm to perhaps 10, or even later!

But no. This is really just a slap in the face. I can't believe you'd go behind my back and change your hours without consulting me, your loyal Kate. But that's what you did. And not only are you closing earlier, you're pushing back to a Mormon-like hour of 6pm. 6 pm!!!!! I certainly do not study before 6pm. I don't even eat dinner by then! When will I drink your delicious coffee now, huh?

Well I'll tell you: NEVER!

And the justification for said change of hours? Profits. It's not "profitable" to stay open past 6. Don't give me that free-market bullshit. I hate you for being a for-profit establishment. It's so over between us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

coffeeshopmania

I tried quitting coffee. Oh yes, I did. It made me more tired (ironic, I know, still haven't figured that one out). It made me very hungry and whenever I was stranded without food my blood sugar (and mood) dropped precipitously.

I tried giving up the dark demon. The delicious, enticing smell. The warm, bitter taste (no sugar, of course). The habit of carrying a drink, a warm distraction, to class with me every morning. To my desk every night.

But these attractive qualities could not compare to that sidekick, the Ethel to the Lucy, the uh... bald guy to David Letterman (okay...still working on the similie thing) the Coffee Shop.

Coffee shops are my haven. I have trouble working anywhere else. The library is too damn quiet, unless it's 2 in the morning and every coffee shop is closed. But the coffee shop, in all its incarnations, never disappoints.

I love my locals, Coffeetopia and Lulu Carpenters, the indie coffeshops, with free wireless internet and alternative individuals sipping espressos. I love the playlists, which vary from weird experimental shit I've never heard, to the barista's sentimental mix from high school (which happens to coincide with my high school years, making me all the more inspired to crank out that paper).

I love my Border's, where the cafe is like a balcony. I love to look down at a million colorful books, contemplating the incredible literary endeavor that is the modern chain bookstore. Not to mention spying on people as they weave about, picking up various titles.

I even love my Starbucks, because I feel satisfied knowing they give health insurance to all of their employees who work even part time. That and they have excellent coffee and the New York Times.

So I tried quitting coffee, I honestly did, but damned if you can't keep a girl out of a great coffeeshop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sugarmania

As Ezra will warn you, I am a notoriously awful storyteller. Absolutely horrible. I can take the most fascinating, life-and-death, seat gripping tale and turn it into C-SPAN.

So, in my attempts to rectify this unfortunate tendency, I'm practicing by recounting my morning at Peet's.

In case you don't live on the West Coast, Peet's are a fabulous chain of coffeeshops. Peet's are warm, earthy establishments, with interior colors like olive, chestnut, and slate. Their coffee is incredible, rich and dark, and the smell, the smell , is enough to make the most ardent tea lover a coffee convert (though their tea is incredible as well). Their to-go cups have bright Indigenous art patterns around the bottom. They're also fantastically bougie places (yes, that Latte drinking, Volvo driving type place). Considering the above wonderful qualities, and my complete obsession with coffee, Peet's is favorite morning hang out.

On this particular morning Ezra and I were getting our usuals (genmaicha for him, double espresso with a bit of steamed milk for me). Drinks in hand, we were at the milk/sugar station, adding creamer and such, when a small hand reaches up to grab the sugar.

The hand belongs to a five year old girl, with gold hair in a mushroom type cut, and big round blue eyes. As she reaches for the sugar, Ezra and I stare at her, amused.

"And what are you doing?"

The little girl looks up in surprise, hand around the sugar, clearly worried us big kids might out her.

"Okay, well I won't tell your mom," I say, and, relieved that we won't be tattlers, she replies, "Oh, I won't tell my mom," and quickly pours a gigantic mound of sugar in her palm, probably the contents of at least 4 individual sugar packets. She takes a quick gulp, and scampers off, almost falling, before she stops to hide behind a display of teapots and mugs, throws back her head and inhales the rest of the two inch high mound of sugar.

Ezra and I begin to laugh hysterically, watching as the mom looks at her daughter with absolutely no clue of what just passed. We finish up with the cream and sugar, and walk out. As we leave, I look back and see the girl take a flying leap out the door, clearly enjoying her sugar high.

Kids are so awesome.