Lend your books!

From the desks of Dr. Foster and Dr. Shew:

One of our recent undergraduate philosophy majors (Spring 2009) is being stationed in Afghanistan beginning in March.  It has come to our attention that books are too heavy and take up too much room to carry to where he will be stationed, and we had an idea:  Why not solicit books from our community to send to him while one of our own is stationed overseas?  We are hoping that you can donate a book or two that we can send to him.

We have learned that books are quite valuable to military personnel, in part because they are so rare.  Thus, books are often read, passed around, shared and discussed when people get them.  Any kinds of books are welcome:  philosophical writings (maybe you have a duplicate copy of a text from a philosophy course, or something you’ve read and would like to pass on to another), novels, short stories, autobiographies, other non-fiction, or fiction.

If you can/are willing to help with this activity, please bring your book(s) to Coughlin Hall.  Both Dr. Shew (127 Coughlin) and Dr. Foster (132 Coughlin) will collect and store the books, which will be shipped to Afghanistan on March 10.  So please have your donations to either one of them in Coughlin Hall by March 9.


Marketing small and regular-sized condoms

Via The Atlantic’s Menachem Kaiser, which commednably keeps an adequate level of seriousness without being clinical:

There are products where smallness is a marketing virtue, like cellphones or thong underwear. But small condoms are a marketing nightmare. If advertising is about creating consumer desire, who aspires to a size extra-small? The result is a condom aisle at the drug store where all the men, a la Lake Wobegon, are “above average.” But the status quo may have dire public health implications.

According to the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, 45 percent of men reported that they had experienced an ill-fitting condom within the last three months. The misfits were significantly more likely to report breakage and slippage, along with difficulty reaching orgasm, both for their partners and for themselves, and a host of other sexual mishaps. Not surprisingly, men with ill-fitting condoms were more likely to take them off before sex was even over — all of which adds up to a massive failure for the one job a condom exists to fulfill.

[Aside]from the machismo-imbued “Magnum” designation, you’d be hard-pressed to find any size labels. What’s a modestly endowed guy to do? And perhaps more importantly, are the condom manufacturers being irresponsible by not being transparent in their sizing? Do they even make small condoms?

In fact, there is some size variation in condoms, but it’s couched in jargon. LifeStyles has by far the most direct code, called “Snugger Fit.” Here is a sizing chart for Durex condoms. Trojan seems to have recalibrated its sizes a la Starbucks (and there is something appealing, if patronizing, about the idea of buying a “Tall” condom when in fact it’s the opposite). The company organizes its products by Regular, Large, and Extra Large. Ah, so the regular is actually a small? Wrong. The regular is actually regular — 35 of their 42 lines fall under this category — not exactly following the bell curve.

Buying condoms online neatly sidesteps this entire mess, though even on the ostensibly private and shame-proof internet, a comparison of the smaller condom selection vs. the large condom offerings is instructive. But condoms tend to be unplanned, impulse buys — hence the rather limited number of bulk purchases, despite considerable savings and a condom’s 3-5 year lifespan.

So what’s to be done? It’s tricky territory. TheyFit Condoms offers seventy different sizes (none of which are labeled “small”), and guarantees a “custom” condom. But in order to enjoy that superlative fit, you’ll have to measure

Half of British six-year-olds want to be thinner

Via the Telegraph:

Half the six-year-olds asked to pick their ideal body shape from a range of digitally altered images of themselves chose one that was three sizes smaller than the real image – the slimmest option they could choose.

Many of the girls questioned in the study, by Cambridge University, said they thought being skinnier would make them more popular.

Teddy Roosevelt was a communist

So says Glenn Beck.

In the world’s smallest sovereign state

Vatican City’s age of consent is 12 years old.

Andrew Sullivan, who rather tastelessly headlined the story with an allusion to the South Park episode “Red Hot Catholic Love,” passed along an emailed document from the DC Italian embassy:  

Vatican State has its own criminal system based on the former Italian criminal code (called “Zanardelli Code”, issued in 1889). Art 331 (1) of this code provides that the age of consent is set at 12 years old, but according to Art. 331 (2) when there is a relationship of dependence (like teacher/student/ etc.) the age of consent is 15 years.

This law applies to criminal suspects arrested in Vatican City. Whereas, if a sexual offence occurs in Vatican State but the suspect is arrested in Italy, he/she is tried under Italian criminal law, based on Italian Criminal code called “Rocco Code”, issued in 1930. According to article 609 quarter of this code, the age of consent is set at 14 years old or 16 years old if there is a relation of dependence. There is an exception to this rule: having sexual intercourse with a partner aged 13 doesn’t constitutes a sexual offence only if the age difference between the two individuals is not more than 3 years.

It is also 12 in Angola, Phillipines, Mexico, and Zimbabwe; it is 13 in Argentina, Burkina Faso, Cyprus, Japan (!), Nigeria South Korea, Spain (!) and Syria. 

Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yeman have no age of consent but only require that both participants be married.

North Korean laws on the subject are unknown.

NHS spent $4 million in ’09 on homeopathic hospitals

Via the Times Online:

The NHS should stop funding all homeopathic medicine, the House of Commons science watchdog said yesterday. The cross-party group said there was no evidence that homeopathic remedies had anything other than a placebo effect.

The NHS spends about £4 million a year on homeopathy, paying for prescriptions and supporting the running of four homeopathic hospitals.

Phil Willis, the chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, said that government policies on homeopathy were not based on sound evidence: “It sets an unfortunate precedent for the Department of Health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homeopathy works is ‘evidence’ enough to continue spending public money on it.”

The NHS spends £152,000 a year — 0.001 per cent of its total drug budget — on homeopathic prescriptions. The Government was unable to provide figures for how much it contributes to the running costs of four homeopathic hospitals — one in Glasgow and three in England. Mike O’Brien, the Health Minister, said that the budget was probably less than £12 million.

If the report’s recommendations are accepted by the Government it would spell the end of state support for the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. The committee also said that homeopathic products should no longer be labelled with medical claims without evidence of efficacy, and should not be licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The report is likely to anger complementary medicine advocates, including the Prince of Wales. Michael Dixon, the medical director of the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, said: “We should not abandon those we cannot help with conventional scientific medicine. If homeopathy is getting results for those patients, then of course we should continue to use it.”

Professor Edzard Ernst, a specialist in alternative medicine who gave evidence in the inquiry, said: “The foundation is a lobby group for unproven treatments which has repeatedly tried to mislead the public.” The committee said doctors who prescribe placebos risk damaging the trust between them and their patients. “There’s a real ethical question. It’s caustic to a system that is supposed to be evidence based,” said Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat science spokesman.

Fark’s headline writer nails it:

Suggestion: this year, give each hospital £10, and tell them it will work better ’cause it’s diluted [.]

Monday Morning Surrealism

Frida Kahlo, "The Little Deer," 1946