Saturday, January 04, 2003

Little Shavers

I wondered where this expression came from. I heard it from my older relatives, and it was immortalized on Burma Shave jingles. Then I stumbled upon this:
Dorothy Shaver, who became President of Lord and Taylor in 1945 and was one of the nations' best-known women executives in the 1950s, was born in 1893 in Arkansas. She was educated first at the University of Arkansas, and later at the University of Chicago. She and her younger sister Elsie began marketing Elsie's handcrafted dolls, the "Little Shavers", in 1922. Due in no small part to the successful marketing effort headed up by Dorothy, the dolls were a commercial success, and drew the attention of executives at Lord and Taylor, a large department store chain based in New York City. Acting as her sister's agent, Dorothy sold some of Elsie's fashion drawings to Lord & Taylor, and thus began what would become a fruitful collaboration. By 1931, Dorothy had been named a Vice President of Lord and Taylor. AT the helm of Lord & Taylor, she helped to inaugurate "The American Look and helped to establish the "Costume Institute" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. She was named President of Lord and Taylor in 1945, the first woman ever to hold that position. Dorothy Shaver died in New York in 1959.
It looks like someone is trading on the Little Shavers name here.

I suppose it's possible that the expression predates all this, but I thought it was interesting anyway.

Admins rule

Once upon a time there was something called a "secretary". Most were men, and then as now their job was about doing legwork and stenographic tasks for the bosses. But the men wanted promotions and the bosses wanted to get some better looking help, so slowly secretaries became women almost exclusively. But in recent years they've been dying out, and the most recent sighting has been at JoniElectric.

That work didn't just go away, it was just taken over by a new entity known as an "admin". Whether that resulted from govt-style pay grades, PC, attempts to upgrade a position seen as humble or whatever, the fact is that these people are essential and in fact are the hidden power in an organization.

Like Santa, they know when you are sleeping, etc. And if you ask them nice they can get you anything you want.

But don't tick them off, or you'll get the claws instead. Your every act is known to them, all the way to the CEO, and like the Borg, if one of them knows then they all know instantly. Run afoul of them and your every paper clip will be numbered, your expenses will be delayed, your billing will be hosed, and you'll be held to every last letter of every administrative rigmarole ever conceived until you're carried off babbling by men in white coats.

They know this, and they usually cash in around Christmas time. Almost all of them have kids who are selling something, and no matter how bad it is for you, if you know what's good for you you'll buy something.

The other major haul is on Professional Secretaries DayAdministrative Professionals Day, first decreed in 1952 by Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer. You can't miss the occasion, because they're the ones who put up the notices, but in case you're on the road it's Wednesday of the 3rd full week of April (it looks like 4/23 this year). I'm thinking that it's no coincidence that the promoters, the International Association of Administrative Professionals, is located in KC along with Hallmark.

Alright, I don't begrudge admins their few moments at center stage, because some of the tasks they are asked to do are incredible. I can't find a link for this one, but I recall one "worst boss" contest that was won by an admin who was asked to take her boss's stool sample to his doctor. For other stupid boss tricks, look here.

I've known quite a few admins from many different organizations, and a number of them were memorable.

"Nancy" was a union member with a quarter century of seniority. But she was simple, and despite attempts to upgrade her she was still pushing the mail cart when I met her some years ago. One Christmas after the annual candy shakedown I found myself with an empty metal box with a Christmas print on the outside. Nancy fussed over it, so I gave it to her. From that day forward she got all my empty metal boxes, and she made a special trip to my cube for every piece of mail I ever got.

Then there was "Angie". She was a very nice but spacy late-30ish mom who was worried about her looks. She always had a dark tan, she exercised until she was tight as a drum, but then there was her AAA bust. So she disappeared for a couple of weeks, then she wore really loose clothes for a week after that (she had been the office's thermometer), then suddenly she's sporting a Victoria's Secret rack. And at that 95+% male nuclear power plant construction site full of leering engineers and other hardhats, she swore nothing had happened.

And there was Saint Esther. I was always working remotely, so we had a Charlie's Angels sort of relationship. I don't thing I ever finished a sentence with her - she always had the right form or procedure within arm's length and the fax would be humming before I got off the phone. I only met her once that I recall, at a company meeting, and in an understated Joan of Arc type way she was a babe too. We worked together for a couple of years until the day when most of us were laid off. Well after I was gone she helped me with admin nonsense, and I'm sure she was the last one out the door when the office was closed down.

God bless the admins - I love you all.

Friday, January 03, 2003

The "code"

Bryan Preston should be a regular stop. He points out the journey of Josh Marshall from reasonably intellectually honest liberal to Democrat toady.

Marshall pushed hard on the Trent Lott debacle and has been trafficking in the 'code words' nonsense about Republicans and their alleged racism.

Oh, there's a code all right. The problem is that the code is maintained by Democrats and applied only to Republicans after the fact.

And it's an obscure code too, like Cockney rhyming slang. You see, over half a century ago Strom Thurmond supported segregation "forever" (Be honest - how many of you knew the platform of the States Rights party in 1948?). The self-appointed high priests of political correctness hath determined segregation to be RACIST (unless it's initiated by minorities, such as in demands for separate dorms - go figure). So when Trent Lott suggested that things might have been better if Strom Thurmond had been elected President, he had to be denigrated.

(Denigrated? Can I say that? It sounds suspiciously like it could be a code word for getting rid of African Americans. Far-fetched? See what happened to "niggardly")

Then there's Bob Jones University. You see, BJU is a private institution which imposes various codes and standards upon its students, and no one has ever been forced to attend BJU. But once upon a time - horror of horrors! - they had a rule against interracial dating. Why they did this escapes me, but the fact remains that it was a private institution - in a reasonable world it would be able to apply whatever rules it chose to its student body, and the free market in colleges and ideas could enforce any cosmic justice that applied. (And somehow I suspect that many of those who would be horrified that BJU barred interracial dating would have no problem with them, say, banning guns on campus - ie it's not about rights).

Does visiting BJU when such a policy is in place constitute tacit approval of the policy? Of course not. Unless you're a Republican - then you're speaking in code saying RACISM is OK!

Of course just being Republican is suspect, because of David Duke. But as shown here, the Democrats have worse problems of their own.

No, Mr. Marshall, there is no "code" and there never has been except in the twisted minds of Democrat strategists and fevered ravings of their followers.

Lawyer, heal thyself

Glenn Reynolds has a long post about trial lawyers here, in the context of medical malpractice crises in PA and WV.

He says that doctors don't do a good job of policing their own. That wouldn't surprise me - this task is the province of professional associations, and these typically are more about protecting their professions against outsiders rather than vice versa. OTOH if you do try to discipline a doctor, you'd better have a heck of a case, because he'll have his own lawyer poised to take a big cut of his settlement. So it seems that lawyers are part of the problem here too.

Are lawyers somehow better at being lawyers than doctors are at being doctors? Hmm. I'd like to see relative figures for malpractice, ie, the percentages of each that are sanctioned, and how big the judgments are.

In other words, I'd like to see how good lawyers are at policing their own.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Yankee racism?

Dr. Manhattan gives a long history of the impact of segregation on the changes in fortunes of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in the 1960's. Incidentally, a number of other teams were also slow to integrate, but these are striking because they are based in areas that fancy themselves as having progressive ideas about race relations.

By now everybody should have heard of the Jackie Robinson story and the integration of baseball. Nobody can question that the man was courageous. Branch Rickey also traditionally gets a lot of credit for this. IMO Robinson deserves his acclaim, but Rickey's contribution is less admirable.

You see, Rickey worked in management. Of course management is interested in getting their labor at the lowest price consistent with acceptable quality. And Rickey saw that there were a lot of highly talented players working cheap in the Negro Leagues. If he could recruit them for his employers of the time, the Dodgers, he could improve the team while simultaneously lowering the payroll. He might have done something good, but it's not as if he had been doing it solely for integration's sake. I'd be interested in seeing comparisons of salaries between black and white players over those early days in conjunction with some of Bill James' sabermetric data to see reasonably objective player values.

If you read books about old-time baseball one of the striking things about it was the hostility of veterans for rookies. The rookies were out to take the veterans' jobs, and vets would bond against them.

Now introduce a bunch of black players to the equation. Now there's even more competition for positions, and this time from experienced players who've been playing for peanuts. The established players would have been hostile under any circumstances, but when the race angle was thrown in also you could expect fireworks.

IMO this points to the real roots of racism - economic competition. If blacks or other minorities truly were inferior there would be no point in discriminating - they'd be kept down all by themselves. But when they were present in numbers sufficient to have significant economic impact, as they were in the American South and in South Africa, whites took measures to impair their economic effectiveness via Jim Crow and apartheid.

If economic competition is in fact the root of racism, it follows that having a good economy is what we can do best to eliminate it. When you're busy, or when you're fighting for your life in a foxhole, you're not likely to get picky about your compatriots.

And in bad times, people are ready to listen to demagogues who tell them that those people who look different really are different.

My friend is taking arsenic

Oh, what the heck - I won't miss her.

That's because she's not going anywhere. I can't remember why she's taking it, but it is for medicinal purposes. I'm pretty sure it's not for syphilis…

Anyway, much BS has been written about arsenic. Most of the more recent stuff has been coming from the left as part of their continuous program of slandering George W. Bush and the Republicans. You see, a regulation that Bill Clinton blessed about the time he was writing all those questionable pardons suddenly became a high priority for environmentalists once Bush took office. Then, being the underhanded partisan that he is, Clinton proceeded to demagogue about arsenic poisoning against Bush, with the backing of green groups (who showed once more that they always place partisanship ahead of environmental concerns).

It's not as if there's no arsenic out there, as this map shows. But the stuff doesn't kill you by its mere existence - as we've known for centuries, the dose makes the poison. So my friend can take appropriate doses of arsenic without harm, and under certain conditions it can be beneficial.

Lately arsenic terror has been upstaged by mercury, in the form of thimerosal. If you've been watching Dr. Manhattan here, here and here and sundry others, you know that
  1. thimerosal is a substance added to vaccines to control fungal growth,
  2. it contains mercury,
  3. Mercury can cause neurological impairment,
  4. there allegedly has been a sudden increase in the number of cases of autism
  5. some want to blame thimerosal for this, although there currently is no demonstration that this is true.
  6. Thimerosal has been removed from childrens' vaccines for several years now, but older stocks could have been in use for a while after
  7. Recovery for damages from vaccine problems is limited by an act passed in the 1980's to assure that vaccine producers would not be sued out of existence by opportunistic trial lawyers
  8. Trial lawyers don't like this, and are trying to work their way around it
  9. To nip this in the bud, the Homeland Security bill includes an item that is intended to assure that any recovery for damages by thimerosal will be limited by that act
  10. Trial lawyers are the biggest donors to the Democrats
  11. The Democrats try to screw Republicans with BS issues every chance they get, and they're trying to sell this one as Republicans Count Their Money And Smile As Eeevil Corporations Poison The Children!
We all know that if the the trial lawyers are successful, they will walk off with most of the money from any resulting settlements. If they're that greedy and rich, then shouldn't they be Republicans?

Anyway, at this point there is no conclusive evidence of connections between the presence of mercury and the alleged autism problems. What's more, mercury is still used with govt approval for a number of applications such as dental amalgams. It can be tolerated, albeit in small quantities, and its mere presence means nothing.

I don't envy people whose children are autistic. But it's interesting that this comes up when it does, how people have tried to implicate incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and that the parents I've seen writing about it all have other issues with Republicans. That's what makes this reek of more cynical Democrat politics.

UPDATE: More from Derek Lowe.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Rodent fishing

From Rita at Res Ipsa, how to fish for squirrels.

In college I spent a year and a half living in a godforsaken downtown YMCA. There was plenty of atmosphere - bums, a porn store, a hotsheet joint and a narrow alley where you might occasionally catch a hooker earning her fee on the fire escape. But at night, before the winos came back to the alley, I heard it had some pretty good rat fishing from the fourth floor roof.

At first I thought my buddies were pulling my leg, but no - they were even shown on the front page of the campus newspaper with a big stringer of rats.

What happens when you don't use a natural resource?

Vicki of Liquid Courage tells us.

Multicultural medicine

Some years back I read something that made several claims about Islamic bathrooms and conduct within. For instance, toilets could not face toward or away from Mecca. Only the left hand could be used for wiping, and that without the benefit of paper. There were others, but it's been a long time since I read it.

Anyway, I was looking for that when I stumbled upon this item about multicultural medicine. It talks about practices in different cultures involving death and dying, pregnancy and other issues.

Bellicose Iranian women

Kathy Kinsley has been following Iran closely, and offers us this from and about women in Iran.

More power to them. I have several Iranian friends, and we all look forward to the day the mullahs are gone.

Monday, December 30, 2002

It takes a checkbook to raise a child?

Somewhere out there a baby cries. The govt knows just what to do. Cut a check.

Jane Galt posts about poverty and govt intervention here. As usual, she's right on.

IMO most of the real poverty we have is social poverty - people with bad or no mentors and connections for even the most fundamental life skills and attitudes. Or those whose mentors and connections teach them the wrong things.

What do you do for such people - hire them new friends and acquaintances? It doesn't appear that something as coarse and heavy-handed as a govt and its bureaucrats can ever have anything to offer in such situations. The closest it might come would be in the armed forces, and such a solution is anathema to most social do-gooders.

If "society" is at fault as some do-gooders claim, then it seems that the right thing to do is to take them out of their "society". That is, relocate them and teach them the stuff their community didn't.

You can't do that with cash or with govt programs. It takes people in the trenches, not lobbyists for new social programs in Washington. The liberals will have to get their hands dirty if they really want to solve this problem.

But who says they want to solve it?....

Sunday, December 29, 2002

You mean you didn't know?

Jay Manifold knows everything, including the true barbecue capital of the world.

Gates, Hayward's, Jack Stack, Arthur Bryant's.... - do I have to choose?

Politicized medicine

One recurring theme here at NWA is the politicization of science. Now I look over at MedPundit, and there are two excellent examples of politicization of medicine.

This one speaks of doctors and Nazis, and how many Nazis thought of governing as applied biology. Besides, the enema theme fits in well with what follows on this blog.

This one speaks of bitching by pro-abortion types (my words, not hers) that govt websites are no longer biased in their direction. Heaven forbid that people should be told of the failure rates of condoms for both the prevention of disease and for contraception, even under ideal conditions.

And while I'm in the neighborhood...

So what did I do over my Christmas vacation? Yep, I researched the history of feminine hygiene. Apropos of nothing in particular, I must be careful to note. Of course, so is most of what I post on this blog.

Anyway, after the Kotex thing I had to include the stuff I found about tampons. I'm sure women used variations on the concept for a very long time before they were commercialized (just as I'm pretty sure that they discovered the clitoris years before Renaldus Columbus in 1559), but the commercialization posed unique problems.

The first hurdle was probably more psychological than anything else. Tampax dealt with this when they introduced their tampons in 1936. They used attractive, active models ("you can run, swim, climb trees, ride horses..."), and always dressed them in white.

The Tampax people might well have done some substantial R&D before releasing their product, but if they did I didn't find anything about it online. Anyway, stuffing something into the vagina sounds simple enough to be harmless as long as it is removed eventually. But this fails to account for the eternal presence of bacteria of various species in the vagina. It's an ecosystem of sorts, and this ecosystem's composition can be changed radically by seemingly trivial external changes such as the type and composition of underwear.

This composition can also be changed by introduction of germs from the outside, such as by the insertion of a tampon. So it is important that tampons be sterile themselves, and that they be handled with clean hands. Failing to do this can have fatal consequences.

How? By a condition called toxic shock syndrome (TSS). As I understand it (and I am no medical professional), it is a severe staph or strep infection with flulike symptoms that can strike rapidly. This 16 year old spent 5 days in ICU recovering from it.

TSS can be caused by other things, but it has been associated with highly absorbent tampons. After Procter and Gamble introduced superabsorbent Rely tampons, the US Center for Disease Control released a study that showed a high correlation between toxic shock syndrome and the use of those tampons. This culminated in a $75M recall/buyback program by P&G.

What does absorbency have to do with anything? It's not clear that researchers know to this day. The cynical among us would be very willing to conclude that the absorbency and duration issues are nothing but scams to spur tampon sales, and of course lefties would call this further evidence that corporations run the govt. Believe what you will, but it so happens that the US Food and Drug Administration has established standards for absorbency as noted here.

No, I'm not trying to spread terror like this person is. Toxic shock syndrome is not very common, so tampon use isn't exactly Russian roulette. But there's no harm in awareness, and I'll note that I'm kind of partial to some of you vagina-bearers out there even now that I'm through doing the dishes.

PS - This is another way to get killed via your vagina. To my knowledge there is no corresponding threat to men, but I support further research.

Rags to riches

Now that dust is out of the way, it's time I took on feminine hygiene.

Nowadays with the near-ceaseless advertising, even we men know a little about this topic. Before it's over I'm sure Tampax will sponsor a bowl game. How did it get this way? This book gives an outline which is heavily ripped off in what follows.

Just before World War I the Kimberly-Clark Company developed a highly absorbent form of cellulose that they called Cellucotton. It was 5 times as absorbent as cotton and more resistant to infection at half the price, and during the war they got a big federal contract for bandages. But when the war ended they had this huge production capacity without a ready market. Now what?

They discovered that nurses had been using the pads as what we now call 'sanitary napkins' and thought they could commercialize it. But how? - the management didn't want the company name associated with the product, and even ladies' magazines wouldn't take ads for it. And of course the whole campaign was to be run by men.

The association problem was solved by setting up a whole new subsidiary. The ad agency addressed their issues by renaming the product Kotex, as in 'cotton textile', and simply noted that it was highly absorbent without further hints. And even this was too much for Ladies' Home Journal back in 1921.

Women weren't making the connection. Then women started showing up in the ads, with a headline 'in stores and shops that cater to women', but it still didn't work. The dealers who would stock Kotex often kept it hidden, women wouldn't ask for it, and when a Woolworth's in San Francisco displayed the stuff in a window a men's organization lobbied successfully to have it removed. So sales were slow.

Then the company switched ad agencies, and the new firm began pitching "A Safe Solution to Women's Greatest Hygiene Problem" and a character named "Ellen J. Buckland, Registered Nurse". By 1925 Kotex was on sale at Carson Pirie Scott, and in 1926 it was in the Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog and competing against more than three hundred brands. By 1928 the company had another character, faux socialite "Mary Pauline Callender", who said that "80 percent of better-class women have discarded ordinary ways for Kotex".

Of course you have only to watch TV for 10 minutes to see how far we've come since then. (I've learned a lot too, like when I found out that the adhesive on mini-pads goes to the panty side). Near as I can tell the latest thing is mini pads with wings suitable for thong underwear.

Maybe next they'll make one that sticks to Mama with wax - it would seal tighter and would exfoliate upon removal. Yeah, that's it - we could use sealing wax, so it could be worn all month as discreet chastity belt. (I'm kidding, for crying out loud!)

PS. I meant to link to this but somehow left it out - the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health.