I did a photo comic miniseries a few years ago on one of the websites I worked for. This is one of the panels, featuring my cat, Fizgig.

P. S. Yes, I used an old joke for my Header. Har, Har, Har! You can hate me for it later.

condomMany people have a serious love/hate relationship with condoms. Using a condom changes the sensations one feels during sex and some even claim that the suggestion for the need of a condom implies lack of trust in one’s partner. An even bigger problem, though, is not the lack of desire to use a condom, but is the tendency for people to forget to carry condoms at all.

This brings us to the solution created by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health: a Condom delivery service. This is why we love the Swiss.

Young people should always carry condoms with them, the office said in a news release Friday, but now bike couriers will arrive — in an hour or less — to “come to the aid of those who have forgotten.”

That’s right, you can have a dong sarong at the ready within an hour of simply making a phone call, if you live in Switzerland. The program isn’t very spendy, either. It costs what amounts to about $7.50, in U. S. dollars, for three condoms. That’s only about 30% more than what you’d pay at a convenience store.

Sadly, this project doesn’t last forever.

The project, which lasts throughout July, is part of the country’s “LOVE LIFE STOP AIDS” campaign.

The idea behind the campaign is to remind people to use condoms. It is a fantastic campaign and I hope to see more like it in the future.

At the Mercy of the condom, they die in three days. *insert foreboding drum beat here*

At the Mercy of the condom, they die in three days. *insert foreboding drum beat here*

The downside of this campaign is that, just like people don’t plan ahead for sex enough to remember condoms, they also are often not attentive enough in the heat of the moment to think to acquire one. I’ve seen people even almost skip the condom at sex parties where there were baskets of them everywhere because they hadn’t thought about it. People have to be educated to the point that their brain is trained to think about condoms when they need them. This is why the Swiss campaign is a part of a bigger campaign to educate people about the importance of safer sex.

For those of us who don’t have the convenience of a condom delivery service, here’s a gentle reminder to keep condoms with you: If you are sexually active, even if it doesn’t happen often, bring condoms!

While I was gone at TAM8, I assumed I would come back and write about what happened at TAM8. However, it turns out that stuff was happening while I was busy that warrant some discussion more so than me rocking out with famous skeptics (not that famous skeptics don’t deserve discussion). If you need to know what happened during TAM, other skeptics did a better job of covering that. I am considering writing about the ‘don’t be a dick’ theme that was covered, but that has to wait until after this somewhat big issue, and one that warrants a more serious discussion than what some of you are used to seeing from me.

So what is the big deal? ScienceBlogs lost a bunch of bloggers in a scandal. I really wish I could have weighed in on this as it was happening, but my life was focused elsewhere. So, in a scandal that would eventually be called “Pepsigate” and then “The Pepsipocalypse,” scienceblogs attempted to create new opportunities for themselves by allowing bloggers who represent Pepsi to have blogspace on their site with the same standing as the other science bloggers. Pepsi’s presence on the site would have been focused on food science, allegedly.

The other bloggers on scienceblogs, for those of you who don’t know how this works, got to where they were because of their hard work in science and maintaining their credibility. Pepsi just forked over some money.  Naturally, some of the major science blogopoly players were a bit miffed, so they packed their bags and left the party. Pepsigate, though, was over before I even found out about it, but has left in its wake a lot of questions that need answered.

First, perhaps we should address the ones that Adam Bly of ScienceBlogs presented with the announcement that they killed the Pepsi blog in the wake of the controversy.

How do we empower top scientists working in industry to lead science-minded positive change within their organizations? How can a large and diverse online community made up of scientists and the science-minded public help? How do companies who seek genuine dialogue with this community engage?

I’m not going to claim that pepsigate was going to be a fair answer to any of these questions, it wasn’t. And I can’t justify arguing against what the agreement was in the first place because I think some reasonable compromises could have been reached. However, with so many casualties in this controversy, happening so fast, I can’t blame SB for quickly trying to undo their mistake. (And, yes, just like the rest of us, even the great minds at SB can wish for an ‘undo’ button on life).

Top scientists working in any industry may have trouble trying to make the right decisions, ethically, and make changes from within that will improve their world and the businesses that they work for. Scientists in a bigger corporation, like Pepsi, may face more complicated issues because they’re weighing problems regarding public health against their income that is based on them helping a product sell. That doesn’t keep them from helping, though, even if they’re pressured into it.

Back in the day, so long ago that I can’t remember the exact dates (but before I was first in college) Coca Cola made some agreements with schools so that they could help with school lunch programs at thousands of elementary schools across the country. Alongside that, they (and Pepsi) put vending machines in schools that were accessible by students. Naturally, this created something of an uproar, which got louder as issues over childhood obesity became more apparent. Governments, becoming more aware because of the outcry, began trying to modify laws to force schools to turn off their vending machines, or at least move them to a place where the kiddies weren’t going to be sucking food out of them. As this happened, companies began focusing on other ways to both promote themselves and abide by laws. Coca-cola created scholarship programs and places like Domino’s began offering alternate foods that were healthier to the school lunch program. It didn’t end there, though. Suddenly, there was a surge in efforts by some companies that saw the potential to lose customers to the new health awareness to improve what selections they were offering to consumers. Alongside the growing health concern, Olestra and Splenda were born (the former then facing a problem of its own due to side-effects) and gained extra publicity because of the excitement. While these developments still haven’t completely solved all the problems they needed to, childhood obesity is still a problem, there are still unhealthy foods offered to children in schools and reasonable healthy foods haven’t been made cheaply enough to be readily available to those who most need them; at least these developments are heading in the right direction and the pressure applied to the food industry has helped tremendously.

This doesn’t really offer us much to use in light of Pepsigate except to tell us that we can have an influence on corporations that lead to better things as long as we are loud enough and can influence their customers. Something worth considering with Pepsi, since they clearly want to be involved with SB, is to ask them to create their own blog worthy of being addressed by the bloggers of SB. This encourages them to actually do something significant without SB compromising their credibility and it opens communication lines.

Another thing we can do to help scientists working for large industries is simply, give them information. The more information we turn out that is related to their work, the more tools they have to influence the industry from within. Since education was/is a motivating factor at ScienceBlogs, this is not a difficult task. Basically, just get bigger so you can provide more science.

There is a ‘however’ to put in that paragraph, somewhere, but for the sake of clarity, I’m putting it here, instead. General communication to the masses is sometimes not effective in getting a message the most important people. Thus, establishing correspondence with people who are important to your goal is also something worth considering. Letting Pepsi have space on ScienceBlogs itself may have been a bad idea, but what if we could get Pepsi to open communication directly with some of the best bloggers? On a grander scale, why not create some communication links between food scientists and CEOs at Pepsi (and other major companies) and outside scientists (like SB science bloggers) that can allow for some mutually beneficial communication? With such an arrangement, the public gets to learn more about the corporations and the corporations get to gain from new insights that are more objective. I can’t imagine that it would take a great effort to invite, say, Coturnix or Orac to visit food labs and see what happens there (assuming the invitations would be accepted). Questions for the companies could be collected by the bloggers from their communities so that each visit could have a direction or goal.

I don’t believe that the agreement between ScienceBlogs and Pepsi was truly intended to compromise the integrity of SB. I think that this conflict can possibly teach us something and that it is the duty of SB to use it to their advantage in order to develop into an improved voice of science and reason that addresses important issues related to, in this case, the food industry and perhaps even spreading to other industries as well.

Note: All that being said, my voice in this community is rather small. Thus, please share.

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