Category Archives: Mythology

New Studies: You shouldn’t be an over-protective parent

Parents should take note of two scientific studies that came out this week and added further muscle to otherwise common sense beliefs about education and hygiene. Bottom line: your kids are going to play and get dirty whether you want them to or not. Make sure they get an adequate dose of the truth.

First, an Oxford University study of tens of thousands of American teenagers concluded that Abstinence-Only programs don’t work. A second study, though not statistically significant, suggested that Abstinence-Plus programs (teaching abstinence plus advising on condom use) probably do work. (Of course, as the article mentions, this means that were wasting a huge amount of money on policies that are ineffectual in the U.S. and likely to be ineffectual in developing countries.)

Second, a University of Michigan public health study found that antibacterial soap was no better than regular soap at preventing disease. Triclosan is the antibacterial ingredient that manufacturers like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive dump into products ranging from soaps to deodorant and even toothpaste (yuck); triclosan may also cause bacteria to become drug-resistant. Of course, this raises the issue of whether we should be so paranoid about germs in the first place. Obsessive hygiene is one theory behind the rise in allergies in children. The hysteria to kill every possible germ is a new one, and you can thank the marketers at the big companies mentioned above.

Don’t Mess with Navajo Proverbs

The storylines of several Stephen King novels would never have gotten off the ground if the protagonists had heeded the warnings of the old guy in the rocking chair.

With that critical understanding of horror/fiction plot devices in mind, Jen and I spent Labor Day weekend with some old friends in the New York Finger Lakes. On Sunday afternoon, we rode from Keuka lake up into the hills to tour a few wineries.

As we were leaving Dr. Frank’s vineyard (Dr. Frankenstein, as Jen noted after a few glasses of Riesling) and walked towards our bikes, a small vortex of wind ressembling a tornado came screaming through one of the fields and directly into the path we were about to ride. The winds whipped up a dust could and carried cornstalks from a nearby field and grape vine remnants some 300 feet into the air.

As a biker (hog rider, not a pedaler) mistakingly called it a microburst, a stern looking man in his 60s looked up and said “That is what they call a dust devil!” He proceeded to tell us that the Navajo believed that if a dust devil crossed your path, grave misfortune might befall you within a month’s time. He insisted he was being serious, and advised that we should not continue on our current path under any circumstances. He instead suggested we make 3 left turns to take an alternate route (which was also supposed to be better paved than the gravel road the dust devil crossed) and circumvent the dust devil’s path.

I am mildy superstitious, and though I respect most cultural folklore, I rarely indulge it. But he wasn’t talking about leprachauns or broken mirrors. Here was an old man, versed in Navajo lore, sitting in a wooden chair on the porch of the vineyard telling us not to go into the Pet Sematary [sic].

Tommy and Jorge continued down the foreboding path, while Jen, I, and Mimi took the (actually much longer) alternate route.

No ill effects for anyone yet. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE 9/18/07: Tommy called me from Vegas, where he was getting ready to travel to Alaska and then South America (the 3 week Odyssey). Tom is a freelance consultant and relies on his laptop for everything. It crashed last week, and he will be unable to connect for at least the rest of his travels. I hope he can recover his data, which wasn’t backed up.

Jorge & Tommy at Dr. Frank’s