Thus Spake Zuska Moves To Today!!!!

August 2, 2010 14 comments

Today this blog moves to the new blog network, at !

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!

Categories: Announcements

Where The Hell Is Prof-like Substance Going?

July 30, 2010 5 comments

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.

The One Festival Where You Want It To Rain

July 29, 2010 3 comments

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. 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.

Categories: Export, Geekalicious

PalMD Weighs In On Dengue Fever In Florida

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

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.

Some Reasons Not To Honk Your Horn At People In Parking Lots

July 27, 2010 14 comments

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.

This post could also be related to Juniorprof’s twitter campaign #painresearchmatters.

Juniorprof’s #painresearchmatters Campaign

July 25, 2010 10 comments

Simple Pleasures and Allodynia

If you have long hair, maybe sometimes you like to pull it back and put it in a ponytail tie or a scrunchie, especially when it’s hot outside.  Or if your vision is less than 20/20, maybe you like to wear eyeglasses so that you can see well when you are driving or walking or just toodling around your home.

When I get near the end of my three-month botox treatment cycle for my chronic migraines, those things start to feel like impossible luxuries for me.  The botox treatments – the only thing that seems to work to abate the frequency and severity of my migraines – begin to wear off at about 2.5 months, and then the migraines transform into more or less constant daily headache that is sometimes worse, sometimes better, but nearly always there.  My scalp hurts.  The back of my head hurts.  My eyebrows and the bony part of my skull just above and near them hurts so intensely it feels like I have been punched in the face there.  I have found that spring-loaded clips are less irritating for bundling up my hair but even these can be too much – sometimes I just can’t stand to have anything at all tugging on my hair.  (This is one of the reasons I’m thinking of getting it all cut off short, short, short.  Mr. Z will grieve, alas.)  I use my eyeglasses for distance only so when I’m in the house I often just leave them off altogether, so that they can’t irritate me by resting on my ears and bridge of my nose.  (I can’t wear contacts because of near year-round problems with allergies.)

These problems are an example of allodynia (that link will take you to a nice post on Juniorprof’s blog explaining allodynia and its mechanisms).

I once had a migraine so severe that I could not lay my head down on a pillow, because contact with the pillow hurt my face and scalp.  All I could do was sit in a chair and cry.  This went on for three days, until some friends discovered me and took me off to an emergency room for some pain relief, an option I had not known was available.

Treating Pain and Side Effects

I am deeply personally acquainted with pain, both chronic and acute, and the list of prescription and OTC meds I have taken over the years in an effort to prevent and control migraines, and treat their pain when they manifest their ugly selves in my life, is stunning even to me:  Acetaminophen, acupressure, acupuncture, ambien, amitriptyline, aspirin, chiropracty, coffee with lemon juice, coenzyme Q10, darvocet, demerol, depakote, dilaudid, excedrin, fentanyl, fiorinal,  inderal LA, lamictal, magnesium, massage, percocet, petadolex, reglan, seroquel, skelaxin, timolol, thorazine, tizanidine, topamax, toradal, tramadol, verapamil, vivactil, vicodin, vioxx, xanax, zonergran.  I am pretty sure this is only a partial list as I did not go through my file with the information on all the meds I’ve ever taken since my stroke odyssey began in 2003 for this post. (I can’t take the various triptan drugs because of the stroke.)

Nearly all the preventives caused me intolerable side effects – one memorable combination landed me in the hospital with a heart rate and BP so dangerously low I nearly died, and another had the distinctly unacceptable effect of making me incontinent.  And not in the “I need to pee more frequently” way.  The meds that effectively treat the pain all have the same lousy side effect, too.  The pain stops, but only by virtue of putting me to sleep for anywhere from 2 to 24 hours, and leaving me with a pain reliever hangover.  Use them too often, and you are in danger of having rebound headaches, and/or developing tolerance.  Before I started seeing my present neurologist, I could tolerate a narcotic dose that would tranquillize a horse.  He got me off the narcotics, which weren’t working so well anymore, and moved me over to Botox only and non-narcotic rescue meds. These meds are extremely sedating, which I hate, but they are less likely to cause rebound, and also less likely to have tolerance and addiction issues. I’m grateful to my neurologist for giving me pain management options that don’t include the opportunity to become a drug addict.

When my migraines were at their very worst, the only pain reliever I had available to me that worked well was fentanyl. Unfortunately, one night I developed hallucinations from it.  Some people may think hallucinations are a kinda trippy, fun sorta thing to experience but this was not.  It was terrifying and disorienting and I lost 36 hours of my life – and had to be hospitalized, again.

This is why I am grateful beyond what words can express for botox, because it is the ONLY thing that has ever provided any real sort of relief for me.  It does not cure the migraines, just sort of keeps them in check but that is still major progress.

It is also why I am grateful beyond what words can express for those who do pain research.  I have relatives who also suffer from migraine, and one of them has participated in a clinical trial to help better understand how botox treatment might help potentiate the action of triptan drugs.  I would dearly love to see botox treatments approved by the FDA for use in migraine treatment, because I really do think existing evidence shows it works – maybe not for everyone, but for enough people to make it worth having it as a choice when other options have failed.

Juniorprof has started a twitter campaign on why pain research matters, and has this excellent post which I urge you to read.

pain research matters to me because chronic pain is poorly treated, poorly understood and the people that suffer from chronic pain deserve a chance at getting that part of their life that pain sucks out of you back. I hope you’ll join me with tweets #painresearchmatters

Researchers like Juniorprof are among my heroes.  Read the post, if you twitter, join the twitter campaign.  Comment here and on Juniorprof’s blog. If you are currently painfree – count your blessings and enjoy the day!

Hat tip to Drugmonkey for making me aware of Juniorprof’s post and campaign.

Farmer’s Market Whiners Annoy The Hell Out Of Me

July 23, 2010 45 comments

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!!!!

Heirloom tomatoes

2009 Heirloom Tomatoes - Multiple Varieties

  1. Heirloom plum tomato

    2009 Heirloom plum 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.

market bounty

A Week's Bounty

How Not To Sell Me Your Fancy HVAC System

July 20, 2010 35 comments

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.

Welcome To This New Spot

July 20, 2010 36 comments

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.

Categories: Announcements

“The Same and Not the Same”

July 9, 2010 17 comments

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?

Seed editor, 2010, as quoted in Guardian article:

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.