Monday, January 25, 2021

Fragrance Creators Association Stands in Proud Solidarity with Glorious Dear Leader!


There are formal congratulations to a new administration and there are self-serving suck-ups. But the Fragrance Creators Association takes it to a whole new level: it’s full Juche Spirit. All that’s missing is the rhythmic clapping. 

Check it out:

WASHINGTON, DC—Fragrance Creators Association issued a statement today from President & CEO Farah K. Ahmed on the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris:

“Fragrance Creators Association (Fragrance Creators) congratulates President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris on this historic day of their inauguration. The association looks forward to working together to find solutions that empower the fragrance industry’s ability to advance key Administration priorities, including promoting sustainability, economic growth, and public health and wellness—especially during COVID-19—while also addressing important social causes of our time. 

Fragrance Creators applauds President Biden’s track record of reaching across the aisle to get things done for the American people. The association also recognizes the pressing need for our country and its leaders to come together in unity and shared values, and is committed to doing its part. We stand ready to leverage the bipartisan Congressional Fragrance Caucus, which was established in 2018 to bring together policymakers to develop policies that champion sound science and are good for people, perfume, and the planet. 

For our diverse, women-led team, today also marks a meaningful and historic milestone, as we welcome the first Black and Indian-American woman to serve as Vice President. We are inspired by Vice President Harris and the individuals who make up the most diverse Administration in our nation’s history. We relish the opportunity to build new relationships as we boldly break new ground to support our members’ ongoing leadership in responsible industry stewardship. 

For Fragrance Creators members, being good stewards means showing up and doing what’s right. The fragrance industry contributes over $22.4 billion to the U.S. economy, invests heavily in sustainable R&D and innovation, and is a strong driver of more than 200,000 well-paying jobs. The association’s diverse membership of 60 member companies reflects the dynamic fragrance value chain—from small, family-owned businesses to multinational corporations. On behalf of its member companies, Fragrance Creators remains committed to supporting President Biden and Vice President Harris and working with the 117th Congress to accelerate a brighter future for our country.” 


P.S. Dear Comrade Ahmed, never go full Juche.

P.P.S. The FCA sure is big on diversity: our diverse, women-led team, the most diverse Administration in our nation’s history, “the association’s diverse membership.So take a look at the organization's current board of directors, and . . . wallow in all the diversity.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Road to Recovery

I was interviewed last week by Robert Camuto, an editor at Wine Spectator who lost his sense of smell after a recent bout with COVID-19. I suggested that he try smell training to assist his recovery of function. You can read about his experience here in his new column.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Note on Free Speech and Social Media


In addition to returning to FirstNerve, I’ve been re-evaluating my participation in social media. I’m a big believer in free speech and in freedom from being tracked and monetized by tech monopolies and their billionaire owners. So I’ve made a few changes in my life.

First off, I shut down my @scienceofscent and @scentofweed Twitter accounts. I will not be part of a platform where Jack Dorsey and his minions can arbitrarily shut down people, organizations, and viewpoints that they dislike. 

My disenchantment with Twitter had been growing for years. That’s why in August 2016 joined GAB as @Avery. Although I found a few people to follow, it wasn’t easy to get much traction there in the early days. Few of the big-name bloggers and pundits had joined, and those who had didn’t post much. This has changed dramatically in the past few months. There is a steady stream of big-name refugees from twitter and a ton of new subscribers. GAB has increased its server capacity big time and the user experience and speed are now excellent. I encourage you to join. 

Of course, I also had an account at Parler before it was thrown off the internet by Amazon Web Services. (“If you don’t like Twitter, go make your own version.” OK, they did. “If we won’t host you on our servers, go make your own.” OK, they’re trying to do that.) 

What about the journalists, pundits, and commentators I used to follow on Twitter? Simple: I subscribe to their email notifications directly or I sign up to follow them on Substack. Substack is an interesting model—it’s a free blogging platform that also allows you to monetize some or all of your content. In other words, you can offer some content for free and reserve other content for subscribers who pay a monthly subscription to get it. This might be a way to restore the independent blogging voices that were so great in the early years of this century. Stay tuned. 

I’ve also grown weary of Google. (Yes, I know it owns Blogger and therefore enables FirstNerve.) Over the past year or so the results returned by its search engine have become . . . less useful. The first page or two of results are from a limited group of news providers and websites. Image searches are biased to stock photo companies. (Do they pay for placement?) This is not the freewheeling Google search of old—it feels rigged. Plus, Google tracks and monetizes the search histories of everyone who uses the service. Who wants that? My solution is to use DuckDuckGo for searches: it works well and it doesn’t track you.  

Then there’s the matter of Gmail. I’ve had a “throw away” account there for years. That means Google bots finger through my correspondence looking for trends the company can monetize (never mind sorting my mail into categories whether I want it to or not). When the auto dealership reminds me it’s time for an oil change, Google knows my identity, the dealer’s identity, and the make and model of my car. The hell with that. I’ve now switched all those threads to my privately hosted email. 

Google also owns YouTube where it has been behaving badly—demonetizing and banning people, organizations, and views that it would rather not hear from. The good news is that there is now an alternative: It is clean, easy to use, and easy to monetize (if that’s your thing). I’m signed up as AveryGilbert, and am already seeing the service being populated by journalists and videographers with large following. Have a look and join in! 

Then there’s the other distasteful Silicon Valley tech oligarchy—Apple. The Messages on my iPhone are encrypted only went sent to other iPhone users; those exchanged with non-iPhones (the texts in the green bubbles) are not. So for peace of mind I’ve signed up with Signal, a service that provides end-to-end encryption of all your texts, voice calls, and video chats. It’s super-intuitive and fast. What’s not to like? Go get it. 

Bottom line: I sense a coming re-alignment in social media. The dominance of today’s tech oligarchy is beginning to slip. They could become tomorrow’s dinosaurs. It’s happened before (MySpace, anyone?). And high-tech is all about being “disruptive”, is it not?


Saturday, January 9, 2021

Goodbye to All That

Well . . . I’m back.

Yesterday I ended my eight-year dalliance with Twitter @scienceofscent. The precipitating reason was Twitter’s political censorship: it had reached such an intolerable level I could no longer associate myself with it.

I rarely posted about partisan politics. I figured my 1,440 followers wanted my take on sensory issues in science and culture, not my political views. The closest I came to expressing them was in posts about free speech and academic/scientific/commercial integrity. Spoiler alert: I believe in free speech and scientific integrity.

Few of the scientists I followed share my scruples. They salt their threads with political tweets and casually assume everyone agrees with their POV. (They are academics, so when on campus they assume correctly.) Especially grating are the Europeans who freely opine on American politics and society; personally, I wouldn’t presume to lecture Brits on Brexit, or Germans on the EU.

Another reason for leaving is that Twitter is now less engaging. There’s a big, interesting world out there and just not enough time to read the daily stream of humble brags (“so proud of my team’s newly published paper”) or flame wars on the biological basis of consciousness fought in 280-character salvos. The guarded, deliberately evasive language of some tweets isn’t worth the time it takes to puzzle them out. Finally, it’s my impression that comments in replies and retweets—the “social” part of social media—have become less frequent and less interesting.

To be fair, commenting on FirstNerve (and blogs in general) had declined as well, as people were drawn to the rapid fire adrenaline hits of likes and retweets. But I’m back here now hoping to rekindle the discussion by providing longer form coverage of all matters sensory.

I welcome your comments. You can sign up (on the right) to receive email notification of my new posts.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The SMELL CHANGE STATUS CHECK -- A Quick Way to Assess Recent Smell Loss in Suspected COVID-19

There have been numerous anecdotal reports of smell loss in people with COVID-19. It’s not surprising to find transient or even permanent smell loss associated with upper respiratory tract infections—in fact, it’s one of the leading causes of smell loss. However, in cases of flu, head cold, and sinus infection, the smell loss usually occurs at the same time, or following, the emergence of symptoms. What’s interesting here is the suggestion that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may trigger smell loss before full-blown COVID-19 disease is apparent. Thus, it might be evident in otherwise symptom-free people. If so, smell loss could be a useful marker in deciding whether to test someone for the virus, allow them back to work, etc.

Most people in the medical and chemosensory communities are aware of these possibilities. What has been unaddressed, thus far, is how exactly front-line medical personnel should probe for recent smell changes in potential patients.

Commercially available smell tests, such as the UPSIT and Sniffin’ Stick kits, are designed for full evaluation of smell function (although there are brief versions of each). However, they are relatively time-consuming to administer, at least in the context of evaluating people in the middle of a viral pandemic. They also require close patient contact with the test materials, which raises concerns about virus transfer and hazardous waste disposal.

My old friend and colleague Mark Greenberg, a neuropsychologist with a clinical practice in Boston, were talking about this earlier in the week and decided what was needed was a brief, verbal assessment using standardized questions, to determine if a person has experienced a recent change in smell function. We came up with three questions modified from the NHANES health survey, and added another of our own.

We call the resulting 4-item screener the SMELL CHANGE STATUS CHECK, or SCSC. We’ve made it available via a Creative Commons license. You can download it at this link. We hope healthcare professionals will find it useful. It may help in compiling data regarding how often smell loss is associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, and when it emerges during the typical clinical course.