Today this blog moves to the new Scientopia.org blog network, at http://scientopia.org/blogs/thusspakezuska !
Ha! I told you you’d see!
I apologize for making you follow my wanderings all over the internet and truly hope you will stick with me through this move. But if you’ll come on over to Scientopia, I think you’ll find lots of interesting stuff going on there, and I hope you’ll agree it’s worth the effort to redirect your browsers, RSS feeds, bookmarks, etc. I think this move will be good for me as a blogger, and good for you as a reader, too. I am very, very happy that the clever folks who came up with the idea for Scientopia wanted me to come play in their new internet sandbox.
Unlike my departure from Scienceblogs, this is move to something good. I just can’t tell you how excited I am. Come see the shiny new blog and network goodness! First fifteen commenters (Scientopia bloggers excluded) at the new site who say they arrived from this WordPress site will be entered in a random drawing for a bit of schwagy Thus Spake Zuska schwag!
What the hell? Prof-like Substance says he’s moving his blog this Monday and we’ll know where to find him.
I wouldn’t be moving, however, if it wasn’t for something really exciting. I’ll be posting a link on Monday, but my guess is that come Monday you’ll know where to find me…
Well I’d lay odds he’s not going to Nature Network.
Damn. If that blogger dude is going to some new clubhouse, I’m going to bust my hairy-legged ass in there too, you just wait and see if I don’t.
Today is Rain Day in Waynesburg, PA.
Rain Day got its beginning in the Daly & Spraggs Drug Store, located in the center of Waynesburg. Legend has it that one day a farmer was in the drugstore and mentioned to Byron Daly that it would rain the next day, July 29. Mr. Daly asked him how he knew and he replied that it was his birthday and that it always rained on his birthday. He had a journal for several years in which he recorded the weather and always had noted rain on July 29th. Mr. Daly thought this was too sure a thing to let pass, so he started betting salesmen who came into his drugstore that it would rain in Waynesburg on July 29. The bet was usually a new hat, which of course he would win.
Every year, the town bets someone famous that it will rain, and usually collects a hat from them, because it nearly always rains, at least a few drops. Weather.com is calling for isolated thunderstorms, so it’s looking good for the festival!
Famous bettors in years past include the Three Stooges, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, the Dixie Chicks, Johnny Carson, and Punxsutawney Phil, himself associated with another famous Pennsylvania weather-related phenomenon.
I haven’t been able to attend Rain Day festivities in years. Wish I could be home this year. Keep your fingers crossed for rain! And get your Rain Day gear here.
Some of you are no doubt aware that the esteemed PalMD has a new blog home. Check out this recent, and distressing, post on dengue fever in Florida: One epidemic, two problems. I have relatives in Florida, and I might like to visit them, and, well, I just generally care about anyone who lives there, so this really disturbing.
Go around the other way, idiot
Two weeks ago I was home visiting Z-mom and I took her to one of her favorite restaurants for lunch. All the handicapped parking spaces were full when we got there so I stopped near the door, got out the transport chair, helped her into it, took her into the restaurant, scurried back out to park the car, and then rejoined her in the restaurant. After our meal I had to do this in reverse. Brought her near the restaurant front doors, then went to get the car. I drove up near the entrance, hung the handicapped parking placard from the rearview mirror, got out of the car, went around to the passenger side, opened the door, and was about to go into the restaurant to get her when some d00dche pulled up in BigMobile he couldn’t get through between my car and the adjoining row of parked cars. If he had backed up ten feet, he could have gone around the other side of the row of parked cars, but instead he chose to honk his horn several times and yell out the side of his car window, “Move your car, lady!” It was about 150 degrees in the shade that day and 99.9% humidity and I was worn to a nub. We’d had a horrible time at mom’s morning doctor appointment, and had to hurry through lunch because we had an afternoon doctor appointment as well. I yelled back, “I’m picking up someone in a wheelchair, dude. Move your own damn car.” And went in to get mom. By the time I came back out with her, he was parked and walking up to the restaurant. In dulcet tones, he apologized and said how sorry he was, he hadn’t known, he thought I was parking there to get takeout, bla bla bla. I looked at him and said, “I don’t park in the middle of the street for fun.”
But you know? Even if I had been parked there to get takeout (with my handicap parking placard dangling from my rearview mirror) – what’s the need to honk and yell? Save your blood pressure, back up and go the other way. Or wait 6.3 microseconds to see if you can figure out wtf is going on. Douchenozzle.
Don’t drive up my ass
Yesterday I was out running errands. I’d woken up with a headache, but I do most days now that I am at the end of a botox cycle, so I tried to shrug it off – had to get some things done. Bad call. Out running around doing stuff, near the end of the errand list, I suddenly got…this feeling. Oh no. I know that feeling. Just…wrong. As if my blood pressure and blood sugar both simultaneously plummeted. I felt breathless and lightheaded and intermittently saw spots. I started to get an odd type of tunnel vision, where I could still see everything, but not really make sense out of things on the periphery. I felt cognitively confused – all information processing took much, much longer than normal. The bad-enough headache was ready to transform itself into a full-blown, raging migraine.
And I was driving.
Fortunately I was very near the entrance of a large parking area, and I knew that off to one side there was a place I could park and be in the shade. I pulled carefully off the road into the parking area entrance road, which led uphill, and then, I knew, had parking lots to the left and right. But I couldn’t see well and wasn’t exactly sure where I would have to make the turn, and then at the last minute I couldn’t remember if I should go left or right, and I was disoriented, so I stopped, briefly, trying desperately to see and figure what I should do.
And then some cranky ass woman in the car behind me honked, and honked, and honked again. This, as you might imagine, was extremely helpful to me in clarifying my cognitive confusion. I wanted to get out of my car and go back to hers and yell at her, but I was afraid I’d pass out. I honked back in frustration, and made a wild guess that left was the direction I wanted, which turned out to be correct, and found some shade.
I got something to drink at nearby store and was able to take something that made me feel better enough to drive the rest of the way home. Nobody else honked at me. And then I was sick as hell with the worst migraine in weeks for the rest of day and evening.
Moral of these stories
Maybe people are doing stupid things in parking lots for stupid reasons. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s a hidden disability involved. In any case, it’s not clear to me that the honking does anything more than vent the honker’s spleen. I don’t know if that lowers or raises the honker’s blood pressure.
Honking to warn people of impending danger is good. Honking to teach people a lesson about how you believe they ought to behave is silly – do you really think they “learn”? – and adds to noise pollution. (I’m quite sure that lady in the car behind me learned nothing from my honking back at her.) Plus, it aggravates my goddamn migraine. So don’t do it if you can help it. Thanks.
For three weeks in a row I’ve overheard someone at my local farmer’s market whine about the price of the produce. Frankly, I’m tired of it.
Every Saturday morning I drag my lazy, love-to-sleep-in-late ass out of bed and hustle on over to the market, various and sundry cloth and recycled plastic bags at the ready to haul home the beauteous, tasty produce. Every week I end up spending at least around $80, sometimes as much as $100. In return I get enough food and more for a week’s worth of meals for two and often am able to prepare some things to save or freeze for later meals. A sampling of what I can choose to take home on any given week: delicious yogurt, fresh raspberries, blueberries, juicy flavorful peaches, fragrant cantaloupe, watermelon, crisp greens (arugula, Swiss chard, kale, several kinds of lettuce, spinach), pears, apples, heirloom carrots, tender cabbage, yellow summer squash and zucchini, green and yellow beans, beets, turnips, salad turnips, potatoes (purple, Yukon gold, fingerling, red, baking), radishes, sweet corn, cucumbers (regular, pickling, yellow, curlicue heirloom ones), peppers (red, yellow, green, hot), sweet potatoes and yams, garlic and garlic scapes, fresh herbs, onions (yellow, red, sweet, and white and red scallions), several kinds of squash…ah, there’s way more, I can’t remember every single thing, but let us most definitely not forget to mention the TOMATOES!!!!
Of course not every item on that list of produce is available all year ’round. One of the pleasures of the farmer’s market is learning to eat seasonally, to savor each item as it appears on the stands, re-learning to eat food that tastes as it is supposed to taste, not as it must taste when it has been engineered to survive mechanical harvest and long transport and storage times. Oh, the wild pleasure of local strawberries with actual flavor! Such a brief season! But the grief of their passing is fleeting, for the next things are coming along, and one knows that soon blueberries and then peaches are on the horizon, and so it goes along.
I don’t spend much money at all in the supermarkets for food items during farmer’s market season. We eat meals made out of what I can create from the bounty of produce I haul home each week, and as a consequence we are much less likely to eat fast food or take out, so we save money there. I could probably shop more frugally at the farmer’s market – we don’t need the raspberries or the cantaloupe each week, but I like fresh fruit, and maybe I could get by with less yogurt, but I like that, too, so I splurge. You could grow your own herbs and not buy them at the market, and I probably don’t need to buy a bouquet of cut flowers, and maybe the eggs are cheaper at the supermarket, but I really, really like the taste of the eggs from the pastured chickens.
So yeah, maybe the farmer’s market produce costs more than the local mega supermarket, I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t buy the flavor you get at the farmer’s market in the local mega supermarket. In the local mega supermarket, your food dollars generally don’t do squat for sustaining local agriculture. If you need or want to shop there, that’s your choice, but if you show up at the farmer’s market, please leave the whine about how expensive it all is at home. I’ve seen people shopping at the farmer’s market using food stamps and, interestingly, they’ve never been among the whiners about the price. Maybe they are more interested in value.
We have to replace our furnace/ac. The AC is dead as a doornail, both are over 20 or 25 yrs old and horribly inefficient. So we’ve been getting quotes. Got two that came in at $6500 and $6800 for 3 ton 100,000 BTU 95% efficient 14.5 SEER variable flow and all that jazz. Third dude came today and did a long presentation after having measured all sorts of shit and went on about importance of proper installation, bla bla, explained all sorts of bla-di-bla about the equipment, how their employees are carefully screened and drug tested and they don’t allow any convicts to work for them because in prison they teach convicts plumbing and HVAC and here’s a picture of brown dudes in prison uniforms studying to come rape and kill your wife in your own home under the guise of installing your new furnace and ac, and you can get a heat pump too to further reduce costs, and bla bla more tech stuff, and voila! four options for your consideration, good, better, best, wow, ranging from $11k to $16k.
And I said, “WTF?”
But wait, don’t answer yet, there are rebates, and we can take this and that off, and discounts, and I can come down on price, and so on, and now the four options range from just under $9k to $11k or something like that.
And I said, “dude, you might want to rethink that one part of your sales pitch where you subtly scare me about the brown prison dudes coming into my house.”
And he said, “well, yes, but Ashton Kutcher’s ex-girlfriend was killed by an ex-con, and there are white guys in that photo too.”
I do not think we will be buying the fancy expensive heat pump furnace from this dude with the laminated pictures of scary brown men in prison uniforms studying earnestly to come rape and kill me in my own home.
Yay! You found your way over here to the new-ish digs of TSZ. I haven’t got the place all set up yet. Posts from the old ScienceBlogs site are imported but there may be some broken links and some doubling of some posts. Haven’t had a chance to clean the place up yet and decorate properly. But welcome anyway.
Stay tuned for some posts and maybe some other announcements.
“The Same and Not the Same” is the title of a fantastic book by Nobel Prize winning chemist Roald Hoffman. It’s a great place to get a hearty dose of science + culture. Part Eight of the book is titled “Value, Harm, and Democracy” and has all sorts of interesting stuff in it on chemistry and industry, environmental concerns, chemistry, education & democracy. It does not have a section on what to do when you are running a media empire and your advertisers want you to censor your writers because they are still feeling a bit touchy over that whole messy Bhopal business, but you can’t cover everything in one book.
I have been extremely sad the past few days as I watch the Seed/ScienceBlogs Pepsigeddon nightmare unfold before me. Being part of ScienceBlogs has been extremely important to me, and something I’ve always been proud to claim affiliation with.
In my last post, I sought to draw an analogy between what I thought I saw happening with the now defunct, ill-fated PepsiCo blogvertorial at ScienceBlogs, and the previous struggles Ms. went through in the days it accepted advertising. Feminism and science are uneasy bedfellows at best, but they have this in common: most citizens are ignorant or ill-informed at best about them; are subjected to vast amounts of dis- and mis-information through highly effective marketing and propaganda machines that are better funded that the authoritative sources; and don’t always know where to go look when they do decide they want some reliable information on the topic. In addition, they are not the kinds of topics that advertisers flock to in droves. So funding a witty, attractive, meaningful, public-serving, truth-telling enterprise devoted to either subject is a daunting enterprise.
That’s what’s the same.
Here’s what’s not the same between the editors of Ms. and whatever passes for editorial ethics and guidance at Seed:
Ms., in 1990, at the time of going advertising free:
It’s been almost three years away from life between the grindstones of advertising pressures and readers’ needs. I’m just beginning to realize how edges got smoothed down–in spite of all our resistance. I remember feeling put upon when I changed “Porsche” to “car” in a piece about Nazi imagery in German pornography by Andrea Dworkin–feeling sure Andrea would understand that Volkswagen, the distributor of Porsche and one of our few supportive advertisers, asked only to be far away from Nazi subjects. It’s taken me all this time to realize the Andrea was the one with a right to feel put upon. Even as I write this, I get a call from a writer of Elle, who is doing a whole article on where women part their hair. Why, she wants to know, do I part mine in the middle? It’s all so familiar. A writer trying to make something of a nothing assignment; an editor laboring to think of new ways to attract ads: readers assuming that other women must want this ridiculous stuff; more women suffering from lack of information, insight, creativity, and laughter that could be on the these same pages.
I ask you: Can’t we do better than this?
We’re not running the bhopal piece, and we’re passing on the Maldive shark ban (a bit late now… Too bad it got caught up in prod week… ). As for Bhopal, it’s a cautionary call on our part as we’re in the midst of advertising negotiations with Dow (who have been inspired by Seed’s photography in their own brand campaigns). RE: the payment, as you’re on a scheduled direct-payment, the bhopal fee covers the Kerry/Carbon trading news piece fee that was outstanding. Let me know if that’s clear.
It’s clear that twenty years later, we really can’t do any better. We’re not just agonizing over toning down a word choice, we’re killing whole articles so that Dow doesn’t get its fee-fees hurt over that whole regrettable Bhopal thingy. Not because we already have an advertiser we don’t want to lose, but one we hope to gain. We’re shutting our mouths before anyone has even asked us to.
Read that Ms. editorial, and see what they went through, what their willingness to speak out cost them in terms of advertising dollars, the contortions they went through to hang on to the few advertisers they were able to coax to the table. Adam Bly, you really couldn’t have tried even half as hard as Gloria Steinem? Really?
Zuskateers, I believe this is my last straw. I’m leaving tomorrow for a week with Z-Mom, and there is supposed to be a conference call this week that will mollify all my concerns. I am ruminating, and will make an announcement when I am back from time with mom about my plans for the future.
UPDATE: response here and comments that follow.