First: the problem of having to cook dinner every night. I used to like to cook, but I don't enjoy cooking in the incarnation in which it currently exists in my life: crammed into 30 minutes after a long day at work and a walk across Pumpkin's school in which I probably asked Petunia to please keep going at least 5 times, and with the knowledge that either it will be one of the same boring things I usually cook or two of the four people at the table will have a 90% probability of wrinkling their noses and refusing to eat it. (But oh, that 10% of the time when I make something new and one of them eats it! That's awesome.)
Let's just say that I don't find cooking for my family to be the fulfilling experience celebrated in our current cultural narrative. For me, right now, cooking is a chore that needs to be done, and not much more. So I rather enjoyed Maggie Koerth-Baker's short post "You Don't Have a Moral Obligation to Cook" and the podcast that it references, particularly this line from the podcast: "Dysfunction doesn't disappear if you cook."
Second: the problem of being judgy and/or being on the receiving end of judgy. I've made an uneasy peace with the judgmental streak that runs through our public discourse. I think that sometimes judgement is warranted, useful, and perhaps even necessary, and other times it is obviously harmful. The problem lies in the vast middle ground. I prefer to err on the side of not judging, at least partially because of the reasons Liz describes in this post about The Prada Moms and the judgment she used to aim at them.
Next: the problem of emerging diseases. I came across a story about superspreaders and their role in the SARS outbreak. It was fascinating, if it a little scary. I once worked on a biodefense project and found myself immersed in the world of emerging diseases and early detection of outbreaks. That was also fascinating and a little scary.
And then there is the problem of how to price drugs. My friend Stevil had a good "what would you do?" post on the question of drug pricing awhile back, when there was an uproar about the pricing of a new drug for multiple sclerosis. Like me, Steve works in drug discovery, and so knows something about the things that make drug discovery so expensive. Unlike me, he is the founder of a small start up, so he has even more direct experience with the expense- part of his job is to raise the funds to keep his company in business. I am also very sympathetic to the concerns of patients, so I can understand the outrage. But I think the public in general has no idea how complicated and risky drug discovery and development is, and how many aspects of it are basically never done anywhere except for at a company. Heck, even some highly educated academics think that drug companies are just doing the easy bit after public funded research does the hard part (this is not even remotely close to being true- but that is a rant for another day).
Of course, I am also a bit biased by my status as a drug company insider and the fact that this industry pays my salary. I don't really want to get into all of that (see, more problems than solutions), but I will just mention that I could probably increase my salary by ~50% if I switched to working in eCommerce and used my data management and analysis skills to help maximize your shopping experience.
The next problem is also in the drug industry, but I don't know how to label it. The problem of unfettered greed and callousness? The Fortune article about the fraud at Ranbaxy, a large generic drugs manufacturer, is so sickening that it took me three tries to actually read the entire thing. Like a lot of people in the industry, I'd heard that Ranbaxy had some problems and was under FDA supervision. But I had no idea how blatant and extensive the fraud was. If the allegations in this article are true, I think executives at Ranbaxy should go to jail. Fabricating data for FDA applications is reprehensible.
Also, I think I'll choose not to take any Ranbaxy generics.
This is a telling quote from the article:
"It is not a tale of cutting corners or lax manufacturing practices but one of outright fraud, in which the company knowingly sold substandard drugs around the world -- including in the U.S. -- while working to deceive regulators."
But even more sickening is the quote from one of the whistleblowers about how executives didn't care about selling substandard AIDS drugs in South Africa because "it was just blacks dying." That was the part where I had to stop on my second attempt to read the article.
Speaking of the problem of racism, Ta-Nehisi Coates has a good article up about the social construction of race. The article was precipitated by the recent discussions about race and IQ. I am so tired of earnest white researchers claiming that the data shows IQ differences based on race, so there must be in born race-based differences in intelligence. First of all, IQ is not a perfect measure of intelligence. Second, any measure that depends on test-taking is highly susceptible to stereotype threat effects. Third, the estimates I've seen by people who study brain development indicate that intelligence is probably only about 50% genetic.
All of this means that I think this is just the wrong conversation to be having about race. Let's talk about the structural things that are holding back people who aren't white in America. That is far more important than a questionable difference in a questionable measure of a complex trait that is probably only half-controlled by genetics.
This reminds me of a tweet I thought was great:
@zunguzungu I learn more about privilege from what I get wrong about misogyny than what I get right about racism.
— Teju Cole (@tejucole) May 14, 2013
Since I'm a white woman, I am the inverse, of course. And this realization is why I'm fairly willing to forgive people who get it wrong, as long as I think they're trying to learn and get better. None of us controls the situation of our birth, and recognizing the structural things that benefit you is hard. It is hard to see past the way things have always been for you.
Let's end the links with a solution- or a partial one. I want to see more diversity in STEM fields. How to make that happen? I don't know, but I suspect that supporting all sorts of kids who want to go to science camp is a good start. I can't send every interested kid to camp, but this fundraiser for a kid in New Jersey came across my Twitter stream, and I could help him. Maybe you want to, too?
And finally, some shameless self promotion: Taming the Work Week, my short ebook on productivity, is now available for pre-order! It will be out next week.
Happy weekend, everyone!