Leisureguy’s post yesterday on Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap rekindled memories of this fine soap and a desire to use it once again after a hiatus of 2-3 months. Michael noted that an ill-advised recommendation to soak the puck before using it had resulted in a nasty cracked look, something shared by my own soap – I didn’t realize that the soaking caused that effect however. But here’s the rub….the normally outstanding Mitchell’s was horrible….with very poor lubrication that caused the blade to skip dangerously across my face and with a resultant quite poor overall outcome. So here’s my question…can shaving soap go bad? Is it possible that the same soaking that caused the cracking also robbed the soap of some of its emolients? I’ve never read anything to this effect, but the performance was so dramatically different from the last time that it begs the question.
Disastrous news for the obese around the world. Rimonabant, the much-touted drug “cure” for obesity has been summarily pulled from the market in Europe where it has been marketed for the last couple of years. North American doctors have been anxiously awaiting its approval here because Rimonabant (under the Acomplia trade name) is the first in a new class of drugs that act directly on the pleasure centers of the brain that respond to food, tobacco, recreational drugs, gambling, and other addictions. By blocking the reward that comes from the misuse of these substances and activities, the need to engage in them stops. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects that has been increasingly noted is the tendency to suicide and the development of other psychiatric abnormalities. It looks like shutting down the various ways in which we medicate ourselves through the stresses of life may not be such a good idea. Here is the text of the withdrawal from the European Medical Agency press release two days ago:
The EMEA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has concluded that the benefits of Acomplia for the treatment of overweight and obese patients no longer outweigh its risks.
Acomplia has been authorised in the EU since June 2006 as an adjunct to diet and exercise for the treatment of obese patients or overweight patients with associated risk factors, but has not been launched in the US or Canada.
Warnings about psychiatric side effects, in particular depression, have been included in the product information since Acomplia was first authorised and has been continuously updated and strengthened to include further contraindications and upgraded warnings on these concerns to manage the risks associated with the use of this drug.
Based on a recent reassessment of the data, the CHMP concluded that there is an approximate doubling of the risk of psychiatric disorders in obese or overweight patients taking Acomplia compared to those taking placebo.
The CHMP considered that the new data from post-marketing experience and ongoing clinical trials indicated that serious psychiatric disorders may be more common than in the clinical trials used in the initial assessment of the medicine. The CHMP was also of the opinion that these psychiatric side effects could not be adequately addressed by further risk minimisation measures.
In addition, the CHMP noted, that the effectiveness of Acomplia in clinical practice is more limited than was expected on the basis of the clinical trials, because available data indicate that patients generally take Acomplia only for a short period.
Prescribers were informed that they should not issue any prescriptions for Acomplia and should review the treatment of patients currently taking the medicine. Patients who are currently taking Acomplia should consult their doctor or pharmacist at a convenient time to discuss their treatment. There is no need for patients to stop treatment with Acomplia immediately, but patients who wish to stop can do so at any time.
EMEA recommends that patients currently included in clinical trials with Acomplia contact the investigator, who will be able to provide more information.
The CHMP opinion will now be sent to the European Commission for the adoption of a decision, applicable in all EU countries.
More information on Acomplia is available in the European Public Assessment Report (EPAR) on the Agency’s website.
In a statement released by Sanofi-Aventis, the maker of Acomplia states that it will comply with the European Authorities request to temporarily suspend the marketing authorisation of Acomplia® in obese and overweight patients and will make every effort to actively support patients and Health Care Professionals in this process.
Clearly, the decision, which comes after the recent announcement from Merck, who decided to discontinue its Phase III program for taranabant, does not bode well for this class of anti-obesity drugs.
Today’s code: German (or Swedish, Swiss, etc.) Engineering
Translation: Made in China, with some stage of the design done in Germany (or other European country).
Aliases: “Made in Germany (or Italy, Sweden, Canada, United States, etc.)”. Usually this means that most of the parts or even the whole thing was actually made in China but some element of the final assembly, packaging, or labeling was done in the country-of-label. Recent media exposés for example, have shown that most frozen, packaged seafood labeled “Made in Canada” actually comes from China, Vietnam, or Thailand, but because the final “transformation” i.e. the packaging and handling was done in Canada, up to a certain percentage of the total value of theproduct, this qualifies for the Canadian origin label. While Canada has some regulations around this Canadian content, other countries are not necessarily as demanding. Italy for example is notorious for clothing that is made in China but because the buttons are sewn on in Italy, it qualifies for the Made in Italy label. Volkswagen routinely promotes its cars as the product of “German engineering” although those for the export markets are almost universally made in Brazil, Mexico, or other developing nation.
Problem: Some developing nations make some pretty good products and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with buying things made there. The problem is in the intended deception that treats customers like ignorant fools who can be misdirected by clever wording. Hmmm….maybe they’re right, you say…we are for the most part pretty gullible in lapping up all the marketing crap companies throw at us. I for one would like to really know where the stuff I buy is made so I can make an informed decision.
Today’s code: “Limited Time Offer”.
Translation: Hurry up and buy it before the price (and our profit) drops even lower.
Explanation: The classic gimmick for getting rid of either old stock, stock about to become useless because of a new model introduction, or an impending price decrease because of an incoming new competitor with a better product and lower price. The time is limited for the company because pretty soon no one is going to want the inventory still crowding their shelves. This gimmick is also used to introduce new products at a lower price in order to hook you into other high-priced accessories and services, e.g. the new Apple iPhone was introduced at a much lower price in order to lock in “early adopters” into a particular network and service plans before competitors could rally with their own new products. Rogers’ “Limited Time Offer” of a 6GB data plan was designed to get the most people flocking to the new iPhone as quickly as possible before Bell and others could get their new models on stream.
Today’s code: “Starting from only….”
Translation: You could theoretically get it for this price but you wouldn’t want it.
Example: Car ads are notorious for this. This is the classic “bait and switch” routine…bring ‘em into the store and then up-sell them to products where you make real money. The price is usually marked with an asterisk, referring to the infinitesimally fine print at the bottom of the ad where all the exclusions and conditions can be found (if you can see them!).
Funny story: Some years ago, Mercedes had introduced a low-end model that at $32K was pretty competitive with mid-range sedans from Subaru, Toyota, etc. I decided to have a look at what that money could buy. When I asked the salesman at the dealership about that model and price tag he sneered at me and said “Frankly sir, that car would have to be special ordered since anyone interested in a Mercedes would want far more than it offers”. With that he lost complete interest in me and walked away. I bought a Toyota Highlander instead.
Variations: Some car makers have caught on that consumers have become inured to that gimmick and you’ll sometimes see ads for cars that include a second pricing tier with the words “Well-equipped from….”
Today’s code: “Part of a healthy, balanced diet”.
Translation: This is really bad stuff that has no nutritional value, so you’d better eat it with some good stuff or you’ll die from malnutrition.
Example: Most mainstream breakfast cereals. Also, spreads like Nutella that get the vast majority of their calories from sugar.
What they really want: To have you believe that this stuff really is healthful so that you will eat it all by itself. The brain forgets the “part of” part and just associates “healthy and balanced” with the product.
Marketers use a variety of code words and expressions in order to perform their magical subterfuge of making you want crap that is really only good for them rather than for you. I thought it might be fun to explore some of these in the coming weeks.
Today’s code: “Clean, fresh taste”
Translation: “We removed most of the things that gave this product its original unique flavor, in order to extend its shelf life and reduce our costs and expired-product losses”.
Example: The new generation of ultrafiltered or microfiltered milk that is basically tasteless. The ads promote the clean, fresh taste that is supposed to be particularly pleasant. Pleasant? I guess if I really wanted to drink water I would have done so, but unfortunately I wanted milk in my cereal. On the other hand, ultrafiltering the milk removes most of the biological components that bacteria thrive on, dramatically extending the shelf-life of the product.
Proof: Get a container of organic milk in whatever percentage you like. It will bring back memories of your childhood and quickly expose this scam. Notice the expiry dates on organic milk (about 2 weeks) vs. the ultrafiltered milk (over a month).
Many years ago when I was in business graduate school I was introduced to the First Rule of Business: “Business is always forward looking; we don’t perpetuate mistakes just because we made them”. For example, if we just spent 10 million dollars on a plant to make products that the market suddenly no longer wants, we don’t keep pumping money into the plant just because we made that mistake; instead we “cut our losses”.
These thoughts rumbled through my brain as I made the decision to stop using my rather complete line of Baxter products, on which I had spent about $200. I hated this line from the beginning and although YMMV, for me it produced a series of very unpleasant shaves and poor skin outcomes.
Today I took my first shave in weeks with the absolutely superb J.M. Fraser shave cream and a Russian Gillette 7’Oclock blade. Fantastic! My skin felt clean and smooth, and fourteen hours later still had a nearly fresh-shaved look. Lesson learned: If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”
A couple of weeks into Baxter shaving and frankly, I don’t think I can take it anymore. The bottles remain half-full and every time I use them I have this sinking feeling that there’s still way too much left to go! Not a good thing. Here are some of the pro-and-cons of Baxter shaving:
-The smells. Every item smells different. The shampoo smells like After-Eight dinner mints, the Body Wash like apricots and peaches. The Face Wash has a medicinal smell, and the Shave Cream has a nondescript chemical smell. Put it all together and its pretty nauseating;
-The shave cream doesn’t lather at all, and it has a numbing agent that is quite strong and unpleasant. The shave cream is best suited to a cartridge razor and not so good for a DE;
-Price. Baxter’s pricing is up there against some far superior lines, most notably The Gentlemens Refinery which produces a great shave with a clean, uniform scent pattern.
In my original assessment of Baxter products some months ago I referred to the line as Retro-Metro, and I think that remains a good summary description: IMHO this is a product line out of synch with emerging market segments and in need of a good home. Please reposition this sucker!!!
Using the Baxter line has forced me to do something I’ve only done occasionally over the last couple of years…consistently use a cartridge razor. The Baxter shave cream is ideally suited to a cartridge system because, despite the recommendation to use a brush (a completely meaningless suggestion since the product doesn’t lather at all – an attempt I suspect to seduce the nascent traditional shaver out of the closet, but not too far out!), this is an apply-by-hand product that provides little protection from a sharp DE blade.
Using my latest reverse-engineering approach to evaluating my shaves, i.e. assess the end-result before evaluating the more sensual elements, I can conclude that overall, cartridge razors produce a pretty fine shave, leaving a very smooth and irritation-free visage, almost entirely bereft of stubble. But strangely enough, this fine end-result doesn’t seem to last very long, with a substantial stubble and roughness evident by next morning, and much more so than after a DE shave. Whereas with a DE shave I could sometimes even forgo the next day’s shave and still look presentable at a client meeting, this is nearly impossible with a cartridge razor. This is a perplexing paradox, because frankly, the cartridge razor appears to actually produce a closer shave.
In principle, the cartridge razor should produce a closer shave because, as most shave enthusiasts know, the cartridge razor’s task is accomplished through the phenomenon of beard hysteresis, whereby the first blade stretches the beard shaft and the second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc.) blade sneaks up behind it and cuts it below the point which normally sits just under the surface of the skin. A conventional single blade on the other hand, basically shears off the beard along with a microscopically thin layer of skin, resulting in the exfoliating action that has recently been touted as being so beneficial in producing “younger looking skin”, as the commercials say about the various abrasives and chemicals women use to achieve a similar effect to what men have been doing (unintentionally) for generations – up until the development of the multi-blade cartridge that is.
Since the cartridge razor’s blades never actually touch the skin explains why it is possible to maneuver these technological wonders so haphazardly over the face, generally without the cuts and lacerations that would result if the same machinations were done with a DE. On the other hand, we can only speculate here that the reason the cartridge shave doesn’t appear to last as long as the traditional shave is that the DE may in fact be cutting the beard at an even lower level than the cartridge as it removes the thin layer of epidermal cells in its path. Not being a shave scientist, I’m just guessing here, but can think of no other explanation for the difference between the initial effect and its long-term sequelae.
Anyway, IMHO, although my face feels pretty good immediately after a cartridge shave, I’ve found that it neither lasts as long, nor does my face fell as “clean” as it does after a DE shave. YMMV.