Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gardasil versus condoms

I have watched the arrival and deployment of HPV vaccine with mixed feelings. I celebrate the vaccine's existence. I know several women who have had cervical cancer. I like knowing that other women may be spared that trauma.

My conflict comes over the CDC's recommendation that all girls be immunized before starting sixth grade and some states' legislation proposing vaccination be mandatory (so far only Texas has enacted such legislation).

This flows from acknowledgement of HPV as a sexually transmitted disease. Granted, girls/women bear the risk of cervical cancer, but why should they be the only ones vaccinated. In fact, couldn't prevention of disease transmission be achieved just as well by mandating immunization of all boys? [note: I am talking about heterosexual activity here because that is what I assume legislatures are also considering.]

The desire to "protect" eleven-year-old girls from a sexually transmitted disease is admirable. But it raises two issues:

1. Why all the interest in HPV?

We don't mandate, or even recommend, that eleven-year-old boys carry condoms, which are effective against all STDs AND pregnancy, to0. In fact, as Little Red Hen notes, one cannot even distribute free condoms outside New York high schools.

We don't mandate or recommend mandatory use of birth control pills, which would protect girls against unwanted pregnancy (which affects far more girls and women than cervical cancer).

Is it that the thought of a girl with genital warts is more disturbing than that same girl with an unwanted pregnancy? Or that the risks of cervical cancer down the road are more grave than the risks of HIV? This does not make sense.

2. Why intervene in girls' bodies more than boys?

This one is easier. I think it is much easier to think of girls as victims, as timid creatures needing protection. Sexually active boys and girls run similar risks of disease transmission. But boys are almost expected to not only have sex but to inadvertently spread disease as part of it. Those rascally boys, with their herpes and genital warts. Best to do what's best for our daughters and give them extra protection.

How about injecting the boys and empowering our daughters to take control of their own sexuality and health?

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Body chilling to prevent neonatal brain damage

I know hypothermia is used to minimize brain damage during some surgeries. Our boss just had open-heart surgery and was chilled to some surprisingly low number (could it have been in the 60's?). And of course, there is the occasional cold-water drowning of a child that miraculously results in no long-term damage.

How smart to try applying this technique to oxygen-deprived newborns. I hope it proves to be a successful treatment.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stop Making Sense

Back in the winter we rented the DVD Stop Making Sense. Spouse had seen it several times before. In fact, his eldest-brother's-good-high-school-friend-cum-roadie has a cameo in it, shining a spotlight in David Byrne's face. Is that six degrees from fame for me?

I digress. I had not seen the film before. I loved it. In fact, as soon as it was done, I switched to the "Director's Commentary" overdub and watched it again.

There is one song, I forget now which one, in the later half of the show, where everyone runs in place. There's amazing energy as the whole band bobs up and down while singing, playing, making music. When I watched it without the commentary, I didn't think of it as "running." It was just the jumpy thing they were doing during the song.

When the director's commentary, which included the band members, got to that part in the concert, David Byrne said something interesting. He said it was the early '80s and Jogging was really popular. Health gurus were touting the benefits of jogging. Across America the fad exercise was jogging. Jogging was everywhere and Talking Heads thought it would be fun/ironic/artistic (whatever performance artists think) to include it in their show. That number (was it Love in Wartime?) is homage to the '80's running fad.

This caught in my brain. I have been a runner since the early '80s, having been on the 8th grade track team in 1983. With the exception of a few years here and there (college immersion, babies), I've run ever since. Not knowing what our culture was like before Running, it seems neither trendy nor unusual to me. It is just one of the many exercise options available.

Tai Bo? Trendy. Pilates? Trendy. Not running. But David Byrne points out it's merely a matter of vantage point. Let's face it. Exercise itself is trendy. My grandfather, who died at 93 after living independently the previous 9 decades, didn't "exercise." He sawed, shoveled, carried, chopped, climbed, sheared, shoed, and so on. It kept him strong and healthy for nearly a century.

What David Byrnes' comment makes me ponder is the point in history at which we presently are in the birth arena. We are in the middle of a shift. Both normal birth and highly medical birth are exerting novel appeal on big segments of the American Culture. These ways of birthing could even be seen as "trendy."

Yet down the road, the novelty will wear away and what remains will just be "the way things are." What will that norm be? Will holistic birth prevail? Will birthing women a generation from now assume it was always so: "You mean there was a time when the idea of laboring without an epidural was radical?

Or, as I fear, will "managed birth" become so widespread that the notion of "just having a baby" seems quaint? "No scheduled induction or Cesarean? Hard to imagine."

Let us proceed alertly with shaping our and our daughters' and granddaughters' future. We don't want normal birth to be a relic in some performance art show.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007


I poured my heart into a footbath last night. It was for the friend of a former client. The client had so loved her footbath that she wanted to give one to her pregnant friend. It was a very sweet idea, though I'd never been approached to offer my services piecemeal. The client and I negotiated a price and off I went to her friend's house, my wooden bowl and aromatic oils in tow.

I was worried about establishing rapport with someone and making her comfortable with my rubbing her feet on such a short timeline. I needn't have worried.

The woman was home alone when I arrived. We got her situated on the couch with enough pillows to support her back while her feet reached the floor. Then it was a warm soak with lavender oil, salt exfoliation, old skool foot and leg massage, and corn meal rub for blessings on the journey.

The mom seemed to really enjoy it. Her baby did, too! Even I could see the little wiggler's back rolling around. I have noticed before that babies get especially active during the footbath. I like to think they can sense the mother's deep relaxation. Who knows.

I am hoping to hear a good birth story fr0m the woman in the next few weeks; she's due soon.


Noro sale

at Little Knits. FYI

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Six Degrees from Doulicia

Playing an old game today. I got this result. Kinda fun since it reviews a lot of the films at the San Francisco Film Festival.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Two unanswered questions I have

1. I'm very sensitized to invasive species in North America. Zebra muscles are over-cleaning the Great Lakes, Emerald Ash Borers have stolen my most beloved trees from Southeast Michigan, English Sparrows and Starlings swarm my birdfeeder and Garlic Mustard is outcompeting our fragile native spring wildflowers. But surely the invasives exchange isn't one-way. What North American species are naughty invasives elsewhere in the world?

2. When I ride the bus to work, it often has less than five riders. At what number of riders is the carbon output of a huge bus less than the combined output of individual autos if each rider drove her or his own vehicle?

Just curious.



Over the weekend I finished Cinxia. I am glad to have it done. The slip stitch collar and cuffs were so fun to knit. I love the finished product. However, I did not enjoy most of the process. A few complaints:

1. Twisted Stockinette. I'm a tight knitter to start with. Throw in the twists (knitting through the back of each knit stitch) and it became an effort to get my needle through the stitches. This is probably more my problem than the pattern's -- and the end result is great -- but it took much of the fun out of it.

2. Yoke. This is the first sweater I've knit in the round. Generally it was great knitting circularly rather than back and forth. And I certainly appreciated not having to sew seams. However, when the sleeves join the body of the sweater, the circular knitting has to make a tight turn to incorporate the curve of the sleeves. This curve was shorter than the length of my needles, which meant I needed to use a third needle to slip each stitch off my left needle and knit it to the right. There simply wasn't enough give in the needles or the yarn to knit directly from one to the other. Fortunately this eased as the yoke grew and by the time I had a couple inches of yoke I could go directly from one needle to the other.

Again, however, the finished project looks just as I'd hoped. And despite my fears as I finished it, it fits! It was definitely a little tight across the yoke. When I blocked it, I stretched the top out a little more than I otherwise would. For the first time in my blocking history, blocking actually made a noticable difference in the fit of the finished item.

And now the details:

Pattern: Cinxia from Fall 2005 Knitty

Yarn: Rowan DK Tweed, color 864 (8 hanks); I got the yarn for 50% off (but have forgotten how much the total was) . The color is best represented by the photo at the top of this post somewhere between a terra cotta and dusty rose

Needles: Several different lengths of size 8 circulars

Notes: I made the sleeves about an inch longer than the pattern called for. This is a standard modification for me as I am long limbed. I also had to convert all the measurements to accomodate my tighter gauge. I had was working about 1.1 times tighter than the pattern called for. I'm especially pleased that the calculations worked!

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Monday, May 14, 2007


Such a double-edged sword is commitment. Taken seriously -- and I do take my commitments seriously -- it is debt, obligation, duty. It can feel confining: handcuffs. No turning back.

Yet what of significance comes without commitment? Sure, there are occasional lucky turns in life. But they aren't nearly as satisfying as the same end, arrived at through upholding a commitment.

Why this vague philosophizing? Because it was a weekend of commitments. Some begun, some underway, and some completed. All exciting and some slightly terrifying.

Of course, Motherhood is the deepest commitment of my life. Yesterday provided some space in which to reflect on that. You really can't know what you're signing up for when you get pregnant, can you? I wouldn't change a thing so far but I worry about what lies ahead. How on earth do I shepherd two boys into adulthood?

Another commitment of the weekend was to myself. I signed up to run the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10K Run. I'm a little nervous about finishing with my pride intact. The race is 3 weeks away. The farthest I've run of late is five miles. I don't doubt I can bump that up by another 1.2 miles by race day. I just worry that my time won't be where I'd like it to be. I am somewhat vain about these things. I'd almost rather run the 5K and kick ass than run the 10K and schlep over the finish line. But I'm commited now. Too late.

Perhaps the most exciting and daunting commitment is to knit a Clapotis for Briar Rose Fibers to use as a display shawl. Yes, Chris was back in town this week for another trunk show. Like a moth to a flame, I beat a path to her display. She had the Morning Glory Wrap on hand for inspection. Beautiful. Every inch.

Anyway, one thing led to another and I left with some beautiful of Fourth of July (photos to come) and a promise to Chris to turn whatever yarn she sends me into a Clapotis. I'm thrilled. I've wanted to make Clapotis for a while. I just was waiting for the right yarn. I also am worried that I'll make a piece of junk that not only won't merit display but will barely make the cut for a toddler's box of dress-up clothes. Fingers don't fail me now!

And in personal knitting commitments, I followed through on Cinxia and continued the Clementine Shawlette. I'll give Cinxia her own post, but here is the Clementine in progress. Photographing lace has its own unique challenges!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Why NOT to have kids: Late-in-life happiness

There were several things in this study summary that surprised me. Mainly, that women with children are no more or less happy in their late years than women who never married and had kids. So many grandparents I know talk about how their grandchildren fill up their lives and how empty they'd be without them. Perhaps yes, but apparently they wouldn't be unhappy with what they're missing.

I also found it surprising that among women having children before age 19, between 19-25 or after age 25, the latter group reported the highest satisfaction rating with their lives. The study group was women who had their children in the 1950's, when the norm was having kids in your early 20s. I assumed the 19-25 group would be most satisfied given they were doing what was typical in their day. Not so.

Both these points subtly reveal the darker, less-discussed side of parenting. It is hard-assed freakin' work AND one perhaps best undertaken from either an altruistic or an obligation point of view. If you're in it for the kicks and fun ride, you may well be disappointed. If you're doing it for the good of your children or because "that's what parents do," then you may be more realistic in your expectations.

That's not to say children don't expand one's universe in ways that can only be seen in hindsight. They do. And of course there are moments of overwhelming bliss.

But any given day, your kids are probably kicking your butt one way or another. The study seems to say that getting out and living one's own life for a while before reproducing makes the work of parenting easier to take.

And in the end, when your kids have fledged the nest and it's back to you or you and your partner, you're not going to be any happier -- wiser, yes; happier, no -- for the journey than those who never took it.

Isn't that somehow hard to believe?


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Clementine Shawlette

3 posts in one day. Lordie. O.K., so I had a little caffeine this morning...

Anyway, for two nights I've been working on the Clementine Shawlette. I checked out blogs today to see what finished projects look like and it's weird. Almost everyone who makes this project takes. a. photo. at. the. very. point I'm at now. So I'll spare you the photo and post one later when I have more to show. Though I must confess, mine looks more wrinkly than all these. I'm hoping it blocks flat otherwise I'll have a Prune Shawlette.


I can run but I can't hide

I have had a love/hate relationship with the environment my entire life. My father, a biology teacher and skilled amateur naturalist, educated me from birth in the our world's cycles and diversity.

Among the lasting benefits are my knowledge of much native flora and fauna, an appreciation for ecology, a sense of responsibility in "living small" on the earth and belief in the power of individual action. One example: my father was a champion of Michigan's "bottle bill" in the '70s. He spoke before the Michigan legislature on this issue and appeared on Detroit talk radio.

When I was in high school my father became clinically depressed. His disease frequently took the form of diatribes on how the world was going to end soon (species loss, acid rain, overpopulation, you name it) and Homo sapiens was responsible. I heard about global warming 20 years before the mainstream media.

I see in hindsight, and with the benefit of my own potentially crackpot psychoanalysis, that my time in a joint law-natural resources program and subsequent, though brief, career in environmental law, were efforts to save the world and cure my father. Though there may be power in individual action, it cannot stop climate change or exorcise depression.

When I realized that, I had a period of 5-10 years where my environmental radar was markedly muted. I suspect it was still orders of magnitude beyond the average Jill. But I did not spend my nights pondering how best to protect my family when the global food shortage happened.

Lately, I feel the old terror -- that my father's predictions were actually premonitions -- returning. One can't turn around without hearing how bad things could be very soon. I am anxious again. This has several repercussions related to this blog.

1. I often find myself reluctant to post.
The usual fare of doulicia, birth and knitting, seems trivial when the Fate Of The Earth is at stake. How important is an epidural or Briar Rose Fibers (no offense, Chris!) in light of the ledge toward which our species appears to be racing?

2. I sometimes post about environmental ideas, but worry they're too heavy and off-topic. For example, instead of the tome you're reading, I'd intended to just put links to my latest gestating project idea: DIY solar oven construction. [In case you want the links, check out this and this and, definitely, this!]
I have been thinking about what Little Red Hen calls "blog identity." I'm not sure what mine is. Initially it was doula. Then knitting doula. Now is it environmental knitting doula? With my thinning number of birth posts, am I really more an environmental knitter? A slightly delusional knitter? Instead of doulicia should I be knitlicia? doLetItGoAlready? Does it even matter "what" [type of blogger] "I" [a pseudonym anyway] am?

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Another reason for restraint with Cesareans

A new study shows that women with a prior Cesarean section delivery have nearly a 50% greater chance of placenta previa in subsequent pregnancies.