Drug Test

The author, an amateur endurance athlete with a deep curiosity about the abuse of drugs in sports, explores the issue in a fascinating, in-depth, first-person account of eight months doping interspersed with the history of chemical cheating in athletic competition. Where athletes score, what the drugs feel like, the inconsistent controls on doping in amateur sport, the risks to one’s health, the seamy world of doctors who get rich ‘treating’ where there is no ailment (except normal aging or poor athletic performance)…

Throughout this experiment, I’d been e-mailing people whom I’d encountered on various Web sites, like Extreme-Athlete.com, where steroid users get together and compare notes. That night I went to one of the bodybuilding sites I’d joined and listed what I was taking: the HGH, the testosterone, the EPO, and now the Deca. I thought I was really pushing the limits, but, tellingly, I was immediately mocked for my timidity and puny dosages.

“Dude, why not just take aspirin?” wrote a guy who called himself the Great One. “Try like 600 milligrams of test and 400 to 600 of Deca a week, girlie boy. And what’s with this human growth stuff? My mom takes that. Why not Dianabol?” he wrote, referring to a particularly potent anabolic steroid. “You afraid of getting strong?”

It was standard practice on these sites to close messages with a quote or a quip like “I may die, but they’ll need a big coffin.” —Outside [via boing boing]

Intriguing and scary.


Enabling Historical Revisionism, Abusing the Public Trust:

The DNC’s weblog, Kicking Ass, notes:

Via Atrios, we see that the White House has edited its website to keep search engines from archiving pages on Iraq.

First, a bit of technical background. Most major websites include a text file named robots.txt that tells search engines which directories not to include in search results. (Here’s an example: the Democrats.org robots.txt file lists folders with content — like images — that search engines can’t index.) By adding a directory to robots.txt, you ensure that nothing in that folder will ever show up in a Google search and — more important for this discussion — never be archived by sites like Google.

Sometime between April 2003 and October 2003, someone at the White House added virtually all of the directories with “Iraq” in them to its robots.txt file, meaning that search engines would no longer list those pages in results or archive them.

And Dan Gillmor comments:

Perhaps the White House doesn’t want to make it easy for people to compare its older statements about Iraq with current realities — though that doesn’t explain why the pages are searchable on the White House site itself. Maybe, then, the White House wants to know who’s looking for these things (e.g. by tracking IP addresses of people who query the government site).

Either way, the blocking of search engines is a bad idea, and fundamentally an abuse of the public trust.

What should be done about this? I’d suggest a manual-labor cooperative, of people willing to download the daily feed from the White House, mirror it and ensure that people can search without having their IP addresses logged. If you have a better idea, post a comment.

But Kicking Ass itself has a plausible explanation:

It’s easy enough to understand the reasoning if you look at past White House actions. Earlier this year, the White House revised pages on its website claiming that “combat” was over in Iraq, changing them to say “major combat.”

One of the reasons some alert readers noticed the change — and were able to prove it — was that Google had archived the pages before the change occurred. Now that all of the White House pages about Iraq are no longer archived by Google, such historical revisionism will be harder to catch.


Bottled New Car Smell Does Exist!

New Luxury-Car Specifications: Styling. Performance. Aroma. “For Cadillac, the new-car smell, that ethereal scent of factory freshness, is no longer just a product of chance.

General Motors recently revealed that its Cadillac division had engineered a scent for its vehicles and had been processing it into the leather seats. The scent — sort of sweet, sort of subliminal — was created in a lab, was picked by focus groups and is now the aroma of every new Cadillac put on the road.” —New York Times


Muslim paranoia: Enemies made us impotent!

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn tries to get a chuckle out of the following story. As you’ll see, it turns out remarkably forced, ignorant and culturally insensitive.

“Last month mass hysteria apparently swept the capital city, Khartoum, after reports that foreigners were shaking hands with Sudanese men and causing their penises to disappear. One victim, a fabric merchant, told his story to the London Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. A man from West Africa came into the shop and ‘shook the store owner’s hand powerfully until the owner felt his penis melt into his body.'”

Steyn’s interest seems to be primarily to lampoon Islamic ignorance, but the report from Khartoum is a classic description of a poignant ‘culture-bound syndrome’ called koro. First described among the Malay and southern Chinese (where it is known as suk-yeong), it is, according to psychiatrist Heinz Lehmann (1911-99) in his time-honored chapter on ‘Unusual Psychiatric Disorders’ in Kaplan and Sadock’s authoritative Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry,

“an acute anxiety reaction characterized by the male patient’s desperate fear that his penis is shrinking and may disappear into his abdomen. Because this is a fairly widespread belief in those cultures in which the koro syndrome is observed, the patient’s family or friends who rush him to the doctor are usually very disturbe about this danger. Almost invariably the affected person has secured a strong physical hold on his penis, sometimes by tying a ribbon around it or by clamping it into a wooden box.”

It has occasionally been described among Western patients as well. Lehmann, who considered koro to be a “unique example of a depersonalization syndrome affecting the integrity of the body-image,” described an epidemic-like mass outbreak of koro in Thailand in his chapter, although noting that cases are usually sporadic and isolated. Steyn’s description notes that the panic in Sudan has been facilitated by text messaging and cell phone communication, and one might expect culture-bound syndromes to be more readily transmitted in a society where indigenous beliefs coexist with modern mass communications.

As someone who transitioned from cross-cultural anthropology to clinical psychiatry, I was fascinated by the culture-specific psychiatric syndromes and did some of my early writing and teaching on them. FmH seems sometime to be an attempt to grapple with the remarkable barriers to communication across the gulfs between individual ‘cultures’ in an atomized society. Which makes me wonder — in lampooning Steyn’s ignorance, am I being ignorant and culturally insensitive about a culture-bound syndrome — American jingoist journalist arrogant xenophobia? We could call it the AJJAX syndrome for short. Does this poignant thought disorder deserve the same compassion due to the Sudanese men affected by koro? I certainly find it laughable… and scary.


Nominative Determinism?

I first heard of this concept through the wonderful Feedback column in the backmatter of New Scientist, which collects examples of people whose circumstances seem coincidentally appropriate to their names. This is related (emphasis added):

“OAKLAND — A 23-year-old Garrett County woman charged in connection with a fatal drunken driving accident nine days ago was arrested again early Friday for alleged drunken driving.

Julie Marie Jenkins of Accident was arrested at 2:30 a.m. by Garrett County deputies after she was reportedly observed weaving back and forth and crossing the center line of U.S. Route 219 just north of Oakland while operating a 1998 Dodge truck.” —Reuters


‘Smart stamps’ next in war on terrorism

“Sending an anonymous love letter or an angry note to your congressman? The U.S. Postal Service will soon know who you are.

Beginning with bulk or commercial mail, the Postal Service will require ‘enhanced sender identification’ for all discount-rate mailings, according to the notice published in the Oct. 21 Federal Register. The purpose of identifying senders is to provide a more efficient tracking system, but more importantly, to ‘facilitate investigations into the origin of suspicious mail.’ ” —The Washington Times


The First Law of Psychology is the Second Law of Thermodynamics

The Energetic Evolutionary Model of the Mind and the Generation of Human Psychological Phenomena (abstract). Peggy La Cerra, of the Center for Evolutionary Neuroscience in Ojai, CA, mounts an energetic (pun intended) challenge to evolutionary theory and, in particular, evolutionary psychology. She argues that traits cannot be selected for merely by their adaptive value but rather on the more complicated basis of a balance between their adaptive value and their energetic costs. The origin of the mind is largely that of a mechanism to assess the energetic viability of a behavioral strategy. In simple terms, it is sensible not to do everything that would be good for oneself if it is too costly…