Archive for July, 2009

LakeSnailOne course is almost finalized, the second – I hope – will take less time!  Then we have buying a new cat litter box, more litter, some new experiments in wet food for Herr Malkin, and …

Maybe lunch and coffee first.

Data analysis, talking with the graduate office, checking in with the biotech people, wondering when that hydrant out front is going to get capped…. Getting the car back and forth to dealership care, checking out another car while the other one is ‘distracted’, catching up with ‘things’….

Here’s an interesting essay on scheduling, which distinguishes between the optimal working schedule of a manager vs the optimal working schedule of someone trying to make somethingStationSkylight.

I suspect a few paragraphs could be added about the times of day that managers vs makers like to work; in our house, I think we’d really prefer to be starting a fascinating conversation or attempting a new art project at about 11pm, and going great guns until about 1:30am — but current circumstances do not allow that behavior [or at the very least, punish it severely…]

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TubularArtCarOne of the things I tell students is that you can learn a lot about document requirements by back-engineering from failed documents or from situations where people run afoul of the law [or simply common sense: those endless “stupid” instructions about not taking a bath with your curling iron clearly indicate that some fool out there did exactly that, with Darwin-award-winnng results].

So, if you look at the FDA Enforcement summaries for 2008, you can learn a lot about what ridiculous things people try, and what you would need to do differently in order to land on the right side of the law. One outrageous example is as follows:

Internet Selling of Illicit Street Drug
On January 31, 2008, the FDA sent a Warning Letter to Ms. Jennifer Gulla of Laguna Niguel, California, for marketing the product “Blow” on her Website. “Blow” is marketed as an alternative to an illicit street drug and is intended to affect the structure or function of the body. “Blow” is well known street drug terminology for illicit cocaine, and the term may suggest that the product has effects on the body similar to cocaine.

The FDA had become aware of the proliferation of various products that were being manufactured, marketed, or distributed as alternatives to illicit street drugs. FDA is concerned that these products pose a potential threat to the public health. Some street drug alternatives are being marketed as dietary supplements. FDA does not believe that street drug alternatives are intended to be used to augment the diet, to promote health, or to reduce the risk of disease.

Accordingly, street drug alternatives do not qualify as dietary supplements. In March of 2000, FDA made available guidance for industry on street drug alternatives. This document contains additional information and is available at:

FDA considers “Blow” a drug because it was intended to affect the structure or function of the body of man or other animals. Moreover, this product is a new drug because it was not generally recognized as safe and effective for its labeled uses. The sale of “Blow” without an approved application violates the law.

To view the full text of the Warning Letters:  http://www.fda.gov/foi/warning_letters/s6674c.htm

Source: FDA Enforcement Story for 2008, Chapter 3, pages 17-18

Now, as you may have noticed, we have a bonus hairpin turn in this example: the FDA says that faux street drugs cannot be sold as “dietary supplements”, but since they are being sold as something to affect the function of the human body, they are “drugs”, and therefore must undergo years of testing to demonstrate that they are

  1. A consistent chemical formulation
  2. Formulated in a safe, clean manufacturing environment
  3. Safe for humans to use in established doses
  4. Effective at doing what they claim to do

And, of course, if they _are_ effective, they will be banned as purposless intoxicants anyway, unless you happen to be a celebrity or anyone with more money than sense.  Whee!

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I had never seen a goldfinch eat the seeds out of a sprig of lavender before.


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It half an hour I have to start thinking about what I will bring to a potluck. So far, I have maple yogurt, strawberries, half a honeydew melon, some Italian bread…… I’m sure there’s something else that I could bring, but my heart isn’t in it.  Oh, figslittlefigsI bought some on sale, which is only permissible because ours haven’t ripened yet, and I thought I’d try the Mission figs to see what the differences are. I’ll tell you the results.  Just by appearance, the Mission figs are nowhere as big, plump or drippingly gorgeous as our home-grown ones [and yes, I realize that description is going to lead to trouble somewhere down the line…but really — tree-ripe figs harvested on a late summer afternoon really do need to be described that way]

My heart isn’t in typing, either, and so I’m dictating the first time in ages, using MacSpeech Dictate (the love child of MacSpeech and DragonDictate, both packages I have used in the past).

This is the time of year for sorting through last year’s papers, syllabi, interesting news clippings, and older materials that had been hastily packed three years ago and honestly not look that since. I know that some of you will say “why are you keeping these things?”, but this fall I will be teaching a class based on notes that I took in 1987  (some philosophical concepts age perfectly well)! So the procedure is to open a file drawer, look inside identify which of the files is most relevant to my life now, bring those forward, shift the others to a new box that will live in the attic, and spend some time ambling down memory lane. Sometimes I find scraps of letters — some I received, and others that I didn’t send (these are educational, but the years confirm that not sending them was a really smart idea). Sometimes I find items that belong in my fiction files, or designs that really belong with my woodworking or crafting files.

A similar process happens with closets, particularly in the aftermath of the sadly successful moth trapping experiment: old items are removed from supposedly safe places, and some of them need to go away. Of these, after thorough washing, a few go away to local charities, some go to known persons who actually fit the garments, and some — like the shredded cotton sweater I wore through much of graduate school — truly need to be trashed. This is hard for me, even when the sweater is a wreck, because I can remember how useful it was, how comfortable, how it was perfect for fall weather in its prime and snuggly to sleep in when it was past its prime but my income did not allow me to raise the heat too much in winter. I felt lousy putting this sweater into the garbage bag in the kitchen and I felt worse when I realized that its last service to me would be to wipe the remains of Indian food out of a bowl prior to taking out the trash. It felt like insult added to the injury of abandonment I was already committing.

Clothing tends to stay around in my family, my father jokes that my mother has clothing that really belonged to the wife of the Conquistador Cortez….  It’s not really that bad, but she can still wear clothing from when she was in high school, and I can’t tell which is the larger miracle: that it didn’t wear out or that she’s still the same size!green-mottled-sock

I hate shopping. I resent the wearing-out of socks. I am wistful when discarding 20-year-old shreds of socks, too. I think: this might be one of the last pairs of socks made in the southern United States before the mills all died. There is history in this sock! Where will I find more socks this functional? [Never mind that the socks in question ceased to really be functional several years ago…]  And, of course, the partial answer is that my Beloved knits socks. But those work better in the winter, and cotton yarn does not bring her joy.  I prefer that she knits things that are as much a delight to create as they are for me to wear.

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“These are the radio stations of the New York Times: WQXR-AM 1560 and WQXR-FM 96.3 on your radio dial. At the tone, 2:30pm.”


When my brother was in high school, he was tormented for weeks over the fact that when a disk jockey called our house one morning, offering a chance to be rewarded with cash for listening for the ‘correct’ radio station, my father replied honestly that he listened to QXR.

Years ago the AM station got eaten by a deal with Disney, and now a deal with Univision and WNYC will take the FM station off the Grey Lady’s books.  I liked the quirky classical style of the NYC-FM station, with Steve Post playfully encouraging ears around the metropolitan area to try something new.  But I had hoped that QXR would endure as itself, not fade and crumble away as WFLN seemed to do in Philadelphia.

Sigh.  Here’s the link to the article: Two companies to buy WQXR Radio

Of course, now I’ve got snippets of old QRX advertisements running through my head [“At the tone, 2:45pm, Bulova Watch Time”], interspersed with the ghosts of other radio stations I miss. [“WNEW! New York Radio, Eleven-Three-Oh!  Where the music is king….”]

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Any way the wind blows…..

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Just so you know, when you see the yellowjackets start to sort themselves out of the dirt you just disturbed, THAT is when you should drop the shovel and just run for the back door.

I am fine, thanks, but I don’t think I’ll be planting that witch-hazel tonight.

Hmm.  Irony there, eh?

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