A couple of things. First, I have to remind everyone to check out the following websites, because they're super awesome. The False is my drawing and illustration blog, which hasn't been updated much recently because I don't have a scanner, and it hasn't been convenient to cart my drawings to school to use the library scanners. Stay tuned though, because it's bound to take off any day now. A Great Sausage is my photo blog. It's cool. I tend to update it much more often; hopefully soon I can get it up to once a day.
Second, I went out to the meadow just up the street a couple days ago to test out my pinhole camera. Up until maybe a year ago it was a farm with sheep and horses on it, but apparently when the owner was approached by the development company he took their offer without any hesitation, and he's probably living in some overpriced Yaletown loft as we speak. When I went out on Saturday, the surveyors had staked everything out, but it was still a nice meadow with some small groves of deciduous trees (one had a kite caught in it), a road lined with Morning Glories and blackberry bushes, birds and rabbits darting an weaving through the bushes, and an old outhouse, apparently the last remnant of the homestead that used to be on the land, labelled “girls only.” There was no male counterpart. I started a new roll of film today and headed out to the meadow again, only to discover that the entire piece of land had been gutted. All the grass and brush was flattened or dug up, and the groves of trees were now sitting in gigantic piles of detritus, mixed in with old bags and plastic oil bottles and scrap two-by-fours. Down at the bottom of the glen, where there used to be a field of lupine alive with white butterflies, there was only a mud pit partially filled in with water. Bummer. I took some pictures, some of which may turn out okay, but regrettably I discovered that I had forgotten to set the ISO on my digital camera, which I was using as a light meter, so all the pinhole photos I took on Saturday will probably be overexposed.
Third, as you may be able to tell from The False or my Facebook page, I'm reading Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth right now. While I'd give it mixed reviews so far (if that was even possible), she made a fascinating point about how the (largely) fake technical jargon that's attached to most beauty products and diet-oriented foods and weight-loss products nowadays eerily mirrors the tendency of the Establishment to exclude women from “higher” intellectual realms, especially the natural sciences. Similarly, it's been on my mind lately how Lysol products make claims about how many bacteria there are per square inch of your toilet, and how gross that is, while eliding the well-established facts that there are often much more bacteria on places like your skin (50 to 500 million per square inch), and that bacteria are a part of being a healthy, that “dirty” environments are necessary for developing children's immune systems, and that indiscriminate use of household antimicrobial products is probably contributing to antibiotic resistant bacteria. (And let's leave the “not all bugs need drugs” campaign for another day.) Is it just a coincidence that this kind of marketing strategy for household products is similar to the marketing strategies of beauty products in that they exclude women from the knowledge of the natural sciences?
From the New Yorker:
I hiked up to Coliseum Mountain with a couple of my friends on Sunday. It was a gnarly hike, with all the 1250m of uphill compressed into the last 5km, but the view from the top made it worthwhile (as always). One thing I saw from the top, besides a pair of ominously large ravens, was this (you might have to squint):
It was roughly east of Coliseum. I want to know what it is, so I can climb it.
One of the doctors responsible for the EPO study in 1987 was a guy by the name of John W. Adamson, a hematology professor at UC San Diego. Since he's still teaching, I emailed him to find the source of his funding. He told me that the bulk of the trial was paid for by a grant from the National Institute of Health, which is a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and Amgen, the drug company, provided some financial support in addition to the drug (which is called Epogen).
The use of US tax dollars to pay for medical research shouldn't raise any eyebrows. There is one interesting thing to note about Amgen, though. They happen to be the title sponsor of an annual event in California called (no surprises here) the Amgen Tour of California, a nine day, 800 mile bicycle race from Sacramento in northern California down to Escondido near the Mexican border. When Amgen signed a three year sponsorship deal in 2005 to get their name in the title of the race, they predictably came under criticism for flaunting the fact that their product had been the drug of choice for doped up bicyclists since the end of the eighties. An article which ran in the LA Times in November of 2005, entitled “Critics balk at Amgen cycle race sponsorship,” pointed out that AEG, a giant sports entertainment firm and owner of the Staples Center in LA as well as the LA kings, had invested $35 million dollars in the Amgen Tour of California in an attempt to make it “the second best cycling event in the world” after the Tour de France. Given the high profile of the Tour of California, does Amgen have a stake in the performance of the cyclists in this race? Yes. But is this evidence totally incriminating? Maybe not. In the article, a spokesperson for Amgen admitted that the sponsorship did seem ironic, but that they intended for the sponsorship to give them
a platform [they] could use to speak out against blood doping and to educate people on proper uses of the company’s drugs….”We believe misuse of our medicines is not only inappropriate but unsafe, and we want to help stamp it out.”
According to a Modesto press release in January of this year, the 2008 Tour of California adopted “the most comprehensive anti-doping protocol in cycling history,” with full screenings of all competitors before the race, then daily screenings of the current leader, the leg winner, and three randomly selected riders. So the questions remain; is Amgen telling the truth? Or is there still wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes while their spokespersons point the other way?
After doing a little research into the matter of doping sponsorship, I've concluded that there is no conspiracy. It seems like some of the most advanced techniques used for enhancing athletes' performance, like erythropoietin (EPO) and human growth hormone, are old hat when it comes to biochemistry, and the advanced research has more to do with which coaches are reading the biochemistry journals and which ones can get hooked up by their old lab-tech/pharmaceutical frat buddies. EPO, for instance, was first discovered way back in the early part of the century. It was developed in the seventies by a couple of doctors searching for a treatment for anemia, and a synthetic form of the hormone was tested on humans in 1987, with the results published by the NEJM. It became popular among cyclists in 1989. In fact, according to my non-scientific survey of the medical literature, it seems like a lot of the journal articles having to do with performance enhancing drugs tend to deal with the problem of testing for the drugs to inhibit their use in competition.