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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I just haven’t been digging much this week.  I should have been; I think I might have fried the Clethra [Summersweet] via neglect.  But here’s what’s blooming now:

July09BloomsSo here we see the raingardent all grown up — the lilies in the background, by the spent rose and lavender, the phlox, daisies and butterfly bush coming into their own in the forerground.  What you can’t see to the right and below these plants are a new red salvia, some asters I grew from spring cuttings, some victoria sage, and a nice blue mix of veronica and Stoke’s asters.

Now this next view is near the back porch, in between the pathway and one of the mighty fig trees.  I put this in last year to make room for some of the iris sale iris…. I thought it would be nice for some herbs [sages and thymes] and a few annuals [this time around it’s verbena, lobelia, and some marigolds].

The iris sale is tomorrow, by the way, so my dear Midnight Gardener will get to find out what goodies I can snag him, along with the extra Devilish Delight rhizomes I’ve already set aside for him.


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Picture this as white with no railings on the porch

Picture this as white with no railings on the porch

We used to go up to New England over the 4th of July holiday, to stay at an old farmhouse and explore the Green Mountains.  Lugging gallons of water up the hill, before the running water was installed. An outhouse. God-only-knew-what in the barn. Fresh huckleberries fro the hillside in pancakes or muffins.  Each year we’d puzzle out where to go see fireworks, get lost along the way, and then finally find the town square or athletic field where the rockets were set to go off.

Signs of all sorts were read aloud [“Is that Rte 5?” “Did we need 12 or 12A?”], puzzled over [“Shouldn’t there be an actual question to go with the question mark?”], or argued over.  But my very favorite interactions were the word games:

“What’s the opposite of ‘Public Comfort’?” — me, looking up at the words carved in the back of the Town Hall-du-nuit

“Why, ‘Private Distress’, of course….” — my mother, weary of searching for restrooms in every town.

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Apparently, there’s a bar in Wisconsin that will be holding a fundraiser for guy who was in a motorcycle crash.  He was driving.  He was drunk.  The woman riding with him was killed.

Here’s the story:


Tavern sets the bar low after woman's death

Posted: July 1, 2009

A guy gets drunk on beer, climbs on a motorcycle and his female
passenger dies in a crash.

His favorite tavern, Fatties on the Lake, plans a fund-raiser.

For him. 

For Jay F. Taylor, the guy in jail facing drunken homicide charges.

And it's featuring free beer part of the day, though the flier makes no
mention of safe rides home for everyone.

Even by Wisconsin drinking standards, this is messed up. And it has
enraged relatives of the victim, Crystal Daly.

"Why are they sponsoring drinking and driving?" wondered Kari Hartl of
Milwaukee, Daly's cousin.

The prosecutor on the case, Kimberly Tenerelli, put it bluntly, making
it clear she was speaking personally and not for her office.

"I would hope in that situation that a bar would be collecting money for
the victim and the victim's family, and not the person who killed them,"
she said.

Maybe the bar could skip the bikini motorcycle wash, too. And the
bachelor auction might come off as insensitive, considering that it was
Taylor's girlfriend who was killed. Taylor couldn't go to the party even
if he made bail; the court ordered him to stay away from taverns.

The crash happened May 24 on Highway 67 in southern Fond du Lac County.
According to the criminal complaint, the borrowed motorcycle careened
into a ditch and tossed both riders. Daly, 31, flew into a pole and died
at the scene.

Taylor, 32, who also is charged with having no motorcycle license, was
injured. His blood registered an alcohol level of 0.14, a little under
twice the legal limit for driving. He has a 2004 OWI conviction in
Milwaukee County.

Even in his condition, Taylor understood that he faced dire
consequences. The complaint says he told one of the cops that he might
as well "shoot him right now and get it over with."

But then there's this aggravating detail: After he was treated at the
hospital, Taylor was accidentally freed rather than handed over to
sheriff's deputies. When they caught up with him later, tests showed he
had been drinking again, Tenerelli said.

Taylor had a Campbellsport residence, but after his arrest, he changed
it to a Bay View address where his family lives. Daly was going through
a divorce and had moved out of her husband's place in Cudahy and into a
West Allis apartment. They had no children.

License records in Fond du Lac County show that Taylor was a bartender
at Fatties on the Lake, near Campbellsport on Lake Bernice.

On the fliers it posted around that area, the bar says Taylor was in a
"very bad and tragic bike accident" but doesn't mention his role in that
crash or say exactly how the money will be used.

The flier says he can't work or get insurance. "We hope that you will
join us for some of the fun activities that we are going to hold to help
our friend down this long, hard road ahead of him," it reads.

The party is on July 11, and the bar opens bright and early at 8 a.m.
The person who answered the phone at Fatties quickly told me never to
call again.

I wanted to ask if she understood the twisted irony of a beer-fueled
tavern blowout to break the fall of a beer-fueled driver accused of
causing a woman's death.

I'm not surprised she hung up on me. It's easier than explaining why an
all-day drinkfest does anything but mock the terrible thing that's

I think Mothers Against Drunk Driving should have a fundraiser of their own — for every dollar raised by this Fond du Lac farce, people should pledge $2 for MADD.

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