August 15th, 2008

_The Scientification of Love_ and _The Farmer and the Obstetrician_ by Michel Odent

I bought these when I was pregnant with T., but as near as I can tell, never got around to reading them. They are book-length essays that overlap substantially with each other, and with some of Odent's other books (_Primal Health_, _Birth and Breastfeeding_, for example, which I did read when pregnant with T.).

Odent provides enough bibliographic information so if one of his little tidbits piques your interest, you can pursue the details. But you'll have to pursue the details, because Odent is not the kind of guy to distinguish between sources based on quality of research (if any). Whether due to translational issues, me just having Issues, or actual slopping thinking/writing, I could find a lot to quarrel with in the information presented by Odent (both what he chooses to mention and the connections he draws).

That said, these are interesting, quick not-quite stream-of-consciousness essays that draw connections across a wide array of thinkers/researchers. _Farmer_ explicitly compares industrialized agriculture to industrialized childbirth, listing parallel thinkers/movers/shakers on each side (which is kinda cool with Ina May at the Farm, actually, but he doesn't develop that particular nexus as much as I would have). His thesis seems to be that we have to change the way birth happens to change the way humans develop to change the way we interact with the planet to keep from driving ourselves Right Off a Cliff. For such an ambitious program, he has a relatively reasonable timeline (thirty years).

_Scientification_ is more problematic, which may reflect either that it was written a little earlier, or was revised, or who knows. This one assembles in one place everything Odent (well, it seems that way) could find that comes more or less under the heading attempts by "science" to understand "love". I put these in quotes because the science is often Really Really Bad and the definition of Love is so diffuse that it kinda makes you wonder what limits, if any, could be placed on it.

Odent has done great things for birth culture. He continues to be an effective force in opposition to medicalized, non-physiological childbirth. But I just cannot help but feel that he oversells the importance of the hours in labor/immediately after birth. At times, he is clear on the influence of the pregnancy-as-a-whole. I dimly recall that in _Primal_ and _B&B_ he recognized the importance of the first year. And I'm not saying these things aren't important -- I just persist in believing that while it may, eventually, be too late to make a difference, that time is a whole lot later than most commentators seem to believe (altho it's worth noting that it might get considerably more difficult and take a large proportion of one's remaining life to make meaningful changes later in life).

YMMV. I think you can still get these on Amazon, but they aren't the easiest books to lay hands on at a library or bookstore; I wouldn't go out of my way, if I were you.

ISP wackitude

I tried to pick up e-mail a few minutes ago and failed and the main ISP website was down and Down for Everyone Or Just Me claimed interwho didn't know about those addresses (for real?). I used googles cache to pull up a phone number, called for network status, learned there was a distributed denial of service attack, paused for a moment, tried again and everything appears to be working. I checked the current online network status, which says the same thing, but with an August 11 date, which is bizarre, because it's not like I've been having trouble the last several days.

Do I trust the web interface to my e-mail at this point? Hmmmm.

mice, moisturizers and sodium laureth sulfate (and possibly mineral oil)

This is the most detailed coverage I've seen so far.

ETA: Here's the abstract:

Here's what I think happened:

Some scientists heard that caffeine fights abnormal cell growth.
They got some specially bred hairless mice that are prone to squammous cell cancers and keratoacanthomas but NOT melanomas.
They put them in UV to simulate a lifetime dose of sunbathing in 20 weeks.
The mice got some suspicious growths.
Now, the scientists needed a (neutral) way to apply the caffeine, so they tried a moisturizer vs. plain water for 17 weeks (IIRC).
Surprise! The moisturizered mice got more cancer than the plain-water mice. Hmmm.
So they tried three more kinds of moisturizer. Same deal.
Then they called J&J and said, make us something like these 4 moisturizers but WITHOUT the sodium laureth sulfate (and mineral oil). J&J did. They reran the test with the new gunk. No extra tumors.

Scientists say, screw that whole caffeine thing; who gives a crap about that. Let's publish what we've got, but, to make sure we don't piss off people (like J&J) who supply us, we'll add a little boilerplate saying, this is too soon to conclude that moisturizers cause skin cancer. After all, these are _mice_.

Make of it what you will. I can't _wait_ to hear what the Environmental Working Group does with this puppy. As for the women-would-have-more-skin-cancer-than-men-if-this-were-real theory, it is to laugh.

ETA: EWG has been warning about a carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-dioxane of sodium laureth sulfate for a while. I do kinda wonder if this whole caffeine thing is a smoke screen for a direct assault on GRAS status for sodium laureth sulfate.

EWG on sodium laureth sulfate: