If I can remember, I’m going to put little tidbits on here periodically.  Never going to write my heart out on this again, no reason to or not to.

All time favorite public spelling error:  An article about JFK and the Bag of Pigs.


Physical reasons about getting old that don’t actually suck (as ALL THE REST DO).
a.) Mosquitoes rarely bite me anymore and when they do, I don’t get the giant welts, I just get a little mosquito bite.
b.) I don’t get cavities anymore.  I have had way more cavities than teeth in my life but nary a one in the last 10 years and I still have all my own teeth, knock on wood.  Hopefully won’t do a face plant on my way out the door and lose all my front teeth for saying that.  My sister the meth head has no teeth, and badly fitting dentures.


GMO labeling is on the upcoming ballot …

Hyperactive Children? Banish Synthetic Dyes from Their Diet

A new study published in the British journal Lancet found that all children—whether they’re predisposed to hyperactivity and attention deficit concerns or not—can be negatively affected by synthetic food dyes. The problem for American parents is the FDA, while acknowledging the connection between hyperactivity and synthetic dyes, missed out on the chance to force food producers to clearly label products that contain these dyes.

So what are parents to do? Well, despite having no big warnings on the front of the label, you can still read the nutrition facts and ingredient list to watch out for these common additives: Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3, BHT, TBHQ and BHA. On the flip-side, you can try to boost your child’s intake of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to help promote a better attention span.

Goob Progress

Labs came back, the big cancer was benign, and the spleen was granulated but benign, whatever that means. Was nice to get some good news for a change.  Gunnar’s mouth is back to normal, he’s eating and pooping (still loose but ? ) and we found out something weird but interesting.

His behavior had become odder over the last couple of months – chasing the shadow of his ears, freaking out over any flickering light and wanting to get it, really OCD-acting.  He’s always been flaky but this was getting out of hand.  Turns out the big cancer pumps out whatever the opposite of glucose is so he had low blood sugar and wasn’t running on all his cylinders.  Isn’t that weird?  He’s behaving almost normally now. Of course, normal for Goob would be not so normal in a different dog ..

One bad thing out of all that – they shaved off his nipples when they prepped him for surgery.  I’ll bet that hurt.  He had explosive diarrhea all over the prep tech so she was probably paying him back.  Still, they do all need to be able to deal with poop.  I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth pursuing.  I’ll probably talk to the doc when he gets his staples out next week.


Weekly Wrap up

Today was all about chickens.  I went to a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) and spent two hours learning about backyard chicken husbandry.  It was quite fun and entertaining.  The teacher was from Grass Valley which is a wonderful hippie/back to the earth sort of cool town where he builds backyard chicken coops.  He brought one to show us, it was quite nice.

A law was recently passed allowing Sacramento peeps to keep three chickens in their backyards, so there’s a lot of interest.  The eggs we like are between 4 and 5 dollars a dozen these days and that’s a LOT of money.  The organic free range eggs taste so much better than the force-fed cramped-cage eggs that I can’t make myself buy the latter anymore.  I’m sure the nutritional value varies a lot, too.  It makes me want my own chickens.

I haven’t quite got Bob talked into it, I think he’s afraid I’ll make him do all the work (which is a very real fear because his doing it all is a real possibility).   Regardless,  I really like fresh organic eggs.  I don’t like the idea of caged chickens. I was in one of those factory barns once in Porterville.  Bad.

There are two chicken rescues (I’m not making that up) that get their chickens from the chicken factories and are within driving distance of here.   I’ll probably go that route and pick up a few Buff Orpingtons  if they have them.  If not, I will probably get chicks.  I saw a lot of chickens today, and the Orpingtons seemed to have the best personality. Lots of different kinds.  I used to know about them, a little, but have forgotten virtually all of it.

Since we have to put up a fence around the pool (Katie will be walking soon) and maybe we can figure out where to put a little chicken coop and have that fence be part of their run.  Matt the chicken coop guy showed numerous variations on that theme.  Lots of places we could use, but predators will be an issue and we have to keep that in mind as we design the chicken space.  We have raccoons and skunks and hawks around here, all of which love to dine on chicken, not to mention our three bird-centric dogs.  I could probably teach Goob and Sissy to leave them alone but Lewi would be a lost cause.  He is not a very good learner about things he’s emotionally involved with.  Serious small-dog syndrome.


I also saw two very fresh lambs today at the farm where I took the class.  A couple of hours old. Their  ewe mama was more or less ignoring them, so they bleated piteously on and off the whole time I was there watching them.   They were sort of gross. Not really as cute as one might think.  Also saw many chickens and a humongous potbellied pig which I did not get a picture of.  He had scary boar tusks but I was informed that he was the farm mascot and very even-tempered.



In other news, the man I was married to for 17 years and the father of my only child died this week after a short illness.  It was a blow to my son, and even to me, more than I thought it would be.  I saw him a few hours before he died, he was mostly unrecognizable, lots of tubes and extremely bloated.  It was bad, but I thought, “That old fucker will pull through this, no worries.”   And then my son called me, sobbing at 2:30 a.m. and gave me the news of his father’s death.  Very sad — they were quite close.   He died intestate which was lame as he’d already had one hearth attack.   Word to the wise:  if you have diverticulitis, do what the doctor says.  And if you feel really bad from it, make them admit you and KEEP YOU in the hospital.   I think the survivors (not including me) are looking at filing a malpractice suit. Also, people, MAKE A WILL.  Husbeast and I are working on that right now, as well as possibly increasing our life insurance.  We would hate to leave each other in the state my ex left his current wife. 😦

When I was at the hospital I finally met the current wife, and I liked her.  I feel bad for her, she obviously loved him.  Fuck.

In other, other news, I was in class all week learning about HTML5 and CSS3 and jQuery.  It was very hard and at least two of those days I had trouble concentrating, mostly due to lack of sleep from what had been going on with the ex and son.   I suppose at my age the people around me are going to start dropping like flies.  Nevertheless the class was interesting, albeit over my head.  I’m not a developer, and it was a developer course, but I liked it and now I will be able to speak a little more intelligently to MY developer, and also I know what’s around the corner for web development in general.

—- Cat butt update

Shawn in Sevilla wrote about her fat cat and his nasty arse… we have that going on here, too.  Scuff is the fattest thing on 4 feet and can no longer reach her bum for cleaning purposes.  We’ve started doing it for her because she was really, really GROSS.  I had to clip the fur around it.  She was fine until I clipped her little vag a tiny bit.  Ow.  But she didn’t go away, and I kept cleaning and clipping and Bob scratched her head and she purred through the whole thing.  She is now all ecstatic about it each time, spreading her toes and purring and just generally getting a big charge out of it.  Heavy sigh.  Bob laughs and makes dirty jokes.  He always gets the clean end.  I’ve been doing this twice a day, and putting antibiotic on the little clip spot, just because it’s nasty back there and we don’t want any infection.  Seems to be ok.  No more vet bills for awhile if we can help it.   But seriously, cleaning a cat’s arse is just not what I want to be doing with my time.  Diets all around are in order, I think.


PS, I’m not really doing a weekly wrap-up, at least not weekly.  Maybe just weakly.

On overeating or drinking

Whether we are talking about the next mouthful, the next drink, the next cigarette, the next sexual partner, or the next dose of whatever psychoactive chemical we might buy on the street, the concept is equally applicable: It’s hard to get enough of something that almost works.


Isn’t that an amazing little insight?  I got it from a Kaiser write up about what they’re studying/doing to help their members with weight control.


SNL’s Netflix apology

crap, wrong video. Stay tuned.

Here’s a link, anyway.  It’s funny.  And icky.

On a completely different note …

Here’s something very true from FB; I think I saw it first on one of DF’s posts.

I’m at a weird time in my life when I’m playing it very safe.  This is unusual for me (in the long view anyway).  But it seems like everything scares me right now, and everything is very hard.   I’ve been depressed, and that colors things – makes me want to try and stay in a safe little spot.  I hope I get past this and start enjoying things a little more.  I know I should count my blessings, and I do.    But no place is ever really safe.  Things change, and we just have to roll with it.

My long-time hair dresser friend has cancer again, and I think it’s all over but the shouting for her.  Doctors didn’t listen to her for way too long.  I imagine that happens a lot in our current health care environment unless you have a *lot* of money.


Geek Woman Wednesday post

This made me cry today.  Such strength of character, so many babies saved …

Wednesday Geek Woman: Frances Oldham Kelsey, FDA reviewer of thalidomide
From GeekFeminism.org

Posted: 17 Aug 2011 08:00 AM PDT

In the absence of doctors’ records, it can never be known how many babies died in the U.S. because of thalidomide’s “clinical trials”; Dr. Lenz estimated that in forty percent of cases where there was fetal exposure, the infant died in its first year. Eleven women (or perhaps more) gave birth to thalidomide babies in the U.S., but there may have been many more whose parents never discovered that their children’s malformations were caused by Kevadon. It is unbearable to speculate upon how many more might have been born but for the singular obduracy of Frances Kelsey.

All quotes are from Dark Remedy: The Impact of Thalidomide and Its Revival as a Vital Medicine, by Trent Stephens and Rock Brynner.

Frances Oldham Kelsey

This is the story of a woman who saved countless lives and protected any number of babies from grievous harm, using nothing but science and her own strength of character.

Born Frances Kathleen Oldham on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, she studied at McGill before moving to the new Pharmacology department at the University of Chicago (which accepted her on the assumption that she was a man.) At Chicago she developed an interest in teratogens and earned her Ph.D. and M.D. She also met and married Dr. F. Ellis Kelsey. When he was appointed special assistant to the surgeon general, the Kelseys moved to Washington, D.C.

Frances Kelsey worked for the AMA reading doctors’ testimonials for various drugs, and she and her colleagues could soon detect among them the well-paid hacks for Big Pharma. It turned out to be excellent training for her appointment in 1960 to the Food and Drug Administration as one of only seven full-time and four part-time physicians reviewing applications to approve new drugs.

A week after she reported for work, the application for thalidomide landed on her desk. Her first assignment! The drug had already been approved in Canada and more than 20 countries in Europe and Africa. Another person might have rubber-stamped it. Kelsey did not.

The first thing Kelsey noticed as she examined the four-volume application from Richardson-Merrell was the names of the doctors – including that of Dr. Ray Nulsen of Cincinnati, Ohio – whose testimonials were included with the application: many were the same hacks she remembered from her time at the AMA… the mere presence of those names did not bode well for the application in Frances Kelsey’s eyes. In fact, as she looked through the application, she found it wanting in many respects.

The chronic toxicity studies had not run for long enough. There wasn’t enough data about absorption and excretion. The animal studies and clinical trials were not detailed enough and there wasn’t enough documentation. What documentation there was, was troubling. Humans responded to thalidomide by lapsing into a deep sleep, but rats did not. Worse, no lethal dose could be found for rats. That made it possible that rats weren’t absorbing the drug at all, while humans were. If that were the case, the animal studies shed no light on possible toxicity to humans.

Despite all this, Kelsey had no grounds for rejecting the application. Instead, she told the company she needed more and better data before she could take any action. In fact, she stalled. She declared the application incomplete and thus ineligible for submission fifty-eight days after it was submitted. That meant it would have to be resubmitted, giving her an extra sixty days to think about it.

You can imagine how much this delighted the pharmaceutical company.

But when Richardson-Merrell pressured her, the medical officer did not budge.

Richardson-Merrell subjected Kelsey to a withering siege of professional aggravation, provocation and intimidation. Altogether she chronicled fifty-one exchanges with the company, when there should have been none.

The company’s scientific officer, Dr. F. Joseph Murray, got her name and phone number (which he shouldn’t have had) and bombarded her with calls. What data did she need? How could the patient instructions be reworded? Could he submit revisions casually, over the phone (thus leaving no paper trail)? How about if he shared data with her privately, rather than in the formal application?

Kelsey rejected the second application as incomplete.

In February, 1961, Kelsey read the first reports of thalidomide causing peripheral neuropathy in the British Medical Journal. She challenged Murray with it. He admitted that Richardson-Merrell had known of the reports, and offered to add a warning to the drug’s packet insert. No dice. Despite the nerve damage issue, Richardson-Merrell wanted to declare the drug safe for use in pregnancy. But, Kelsey argued, if thalidomide could cause nerve damage in adults, how could the company prove that it would not cross the placental barrier and cause even worse damage to a fetus?

Testing this would take years and cost untold money. Richardson-Merrell was disinclined.

Kelsey required the company to resubmit the application six times. Richardson-Merrell tried to go over her head, but she stood her ground.

On November 18, 1961, the first statements came out of Germany about birth defects attributable to thalidomide. On November 29, the drug was removed from the German market.

On March 8, 1962, Richardson-Merrell withdrew its application.

On August 8, President Kennedy gave Frances Oldham Kelsey the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service, the highest honour given to a civilian. As well he might. At least 4000 children in Europe were born affected by the drug. Kelsey’s rigour averted a similar tragedy in the USA.

Dr. Kelsey’s contribution,

wrote Senator Carey Kefauver,

flows from a rare combination of factors: a knowledge of medicine, a knowledge of pharmacology, a keen intellect and inquiring mind, the imagination to connect apparently isolated bits of information, and the strength of character to resist strong pressures.

Anyone for a Geek Feminist manifesto?

She became an American hero, gracing the cover of Life magazine, receiving and answering hundreds of letters, and then quietly returning to her job of protecting the public’s health.

In fact, for her next trick, Kelsey helped reform the FDA.

Wikipedia: Frances Oldham Kelsey

Random Factoid O’ The Day

The sensitivity of the human eye is so keen that on a clear, moonless night, a person with 20/20 vision standing on a mountain can see a match being struck as far as 50 miles away. Much to their amazement, astronauts in orbit were able to see the wakes of ships.

Also:  I got a mandoline last week.  Orka (cheap end).  I have already cut off one knuckle and the end of another finger.  That sucker is dangerous and I am band-aid ridden.  But I am such a corner-cutter that it is very, very VERY hard to make myself use the holder as soon as I really should.  It’s the first kitchen accoutrement that I’ve ever been afraid of, unless you count the disposal.   On a positive note, I’m pretty sure these qualify as cook’s scars.  Yeah, baby, I’m bad.  I have the bad, mad cooking skilz and the scars to prove it.

The next bad thing

Researchers Turn USB Cable Into Attack Tool
CNet (01/19/11) Elinor Mills

George Mason University researchers will demonstrate a computer device attack using a USB cable at the Black Hat DC conference. Professor Angelos Stavrou and student Zhaohui Wang have written software that changes the functionality of the USB driver, enabling keyboard and mouse functionality to be added to the connection.

The exploit of the USB protocol, which can be used to connect any device to a computing platform without authentication, allows the attacker to start typing commands, click the mouse to steal files, and download malware. Although Macintosh and Windows machines will produce a pop-up message saying a new human interface device has been detected, there is no easily recognizable way to stop the process. Stavrou describes the compromise as viral.

“Say your computer at home is compromised and you compromise your Android phone by connecting them,” he says. “Then, whenever you connect the smartphone to another laptop or computing device I can take over that computer also, and then compromise other computers off that Android.”

The original compromise can result from downloading the exploit from the Web or running a compromised app, and antivirus software would not be able to determine whether the exploit’s activities are controlled or sanctioned by the user.


And then we have quotes from Stonewall Jackson 1824 – 1863(via Van at Quotes of the Day):

The time for war has not yet come, but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.

I like liquor — its taste and its effects — and that is just the reason why I never drink it.

I like these two quotes as they illustrate an inability and perhaps even inadvisability to be moderate.  I have that problem.  It’s somewhat easier now that I’m a little older and my passions are flagging, but my general tendency is still all or nothing. [This is not to say I don’t do half-assed things all the time (cuz I do!) but they are normally more day-to-day routine things that I want to do in a hurry, like … pound a big nail into the wall because I don’t want to go dig through crap in the garage looking for the correct size.]

I think, as an adult, that I should be getting better at being moderate than I am.  Diets?  Eat everything or eat nothing.  That’s where I am.  I know better and it doesn’t seem to help a bit.  Drinking?  Binge or go dry, I’m good either way.  Fighting?  Don’t get in a serious fight with me because I will hold a grudge forever and you will ALWAYS fall asleep before I do.  And I have a bat under the bed.  Exercise?  Do it til my muscles bleed or lay on the couch all day.  And that  may the worst thing, healthwise.  I wish I had a little insight into why I’m like this.  Sometimes I think it’s some sort of shallowly buried death wish.

Here’s a possible current example [or it’s some other type of unexamined psycho-ness]:  I had major surgery 5 days ago … and moved heavy furniture Thursday night and Friday morning because I suddenly felt that things were in the wrong place and MUST be moved right now.  I normally don’t move furniture except when I change residences but it was suddenly making me crazy last night.    Poor Bob, he’s all NO YOU CAN’T DO THIS I WON’T HELP YOU.  TAKE IT EASY DAMMIT and so of course I’m doing it myself because he won’t help and then he HAS to help because it’s not in him to watch me do something like that and not help.   I guess if I feel like moving furniture I must be okay, anyway.  If I was still knocked down that  hard from the surgery I’d have no desire to move it, right?  Or maybe it was the drugs.

The room looks a lot better now, though.  Way worth it.

How a virus works

How the Flu Virus Steals Your Cells, from today’s EveryLearner Knowledge News email.  EveryLearner.com sends out interesting bits about the world on a regular basis.   You can try it free for a month here.


Right now, there is no bigger news than flu. So naturally, we want to know about it. Specifically, we want to know how the flu virus steals your cells, because that’s what all viruses–no matter how new–do. They nab your cells and use them for their own reproductive purposes.

They have to, because a virus is nothing more than a few strands of rogue DNA (or rogue RNA, DNA’s single-stranded cousin) wrapped in a protein coat to keep out the draft.

They are not cells, and they have none of the internal structures that cells use to go about the business of life, which is, generally, to make more life. No, viruses are just genetic material looking for a free ride–looking to hijack a cell and make its machinery do the virus’s bidding.

Rule for Viral Success #1:

Mutation, Mutation, Mutation

With so little to call their own, how have these biological pirates survived for so long? The answer lies in two traits that give viruses superb evolutionary advantages: superfast reproduction and genetic mutations.

Viruses live to reproduce. Although they must do this within host cells, once inside, viruses replicate with enough abandon to shame a rabbit. They quickly reprogram the machinery that cells use to copy their own DNA and use it to spit out copy after copy of themselves.

Genetic mutations add insult to injury. With so much reproduction going on, viruses can mutate almost as fast as they propagate. And massive mutation means that each new generation of viral invaders stands a good chance of gaining some new survival or targeting advantage.

Rule for Viral Success #2:

Pick a Likely Victim

Viruses invade all kinds of cells–plant cells, animal cells, fungi, even bacteria. Yet each virus tends to have a very specific M.O. Which cells look like likely victims to a virus depends on the unique proteins found on the virus’s protein coat and the protein receptors found on the poor target cell.

Some viruses recognize the general receptors that occur on many different kinds of cells. The virus for rabies, for example, can invade so many different kinds of cells that it can span species, infecting rodents, dogs, and humans. Flu is a pretty good species spanner, too.

Other viruses are more restricted and can invade only specific kinds of cells. The common cold virus, for example, can invade only the cells lining the human upper respiratory tract. It’s a picky thief.

Rule for Viral Success #3:

Make It an Inside Job

Viral entry mechanisms are as diverse as viruses themselves, which is why viruses often elude treatment. Some enter a target cell by binding to a specific receptor and passing through the host cell membrane to the cell interior. Others don’t need to enter the cell, but simply attach to the surface and use a needle-like structure to inject their DNA right in.

Once viral genes are inside, the virus begins its replication. It exploits the host cell’s supplies and machinery, forcing it to copy viral genes and synthesize more viral protein coats. Then, these two components come together to form copies of the virus that emerge from the host cell.

Sometimes they “bud” off the cell, like bubbles on top of a simmering stew. At other, more violent times, copies simply fill the cell until it can hold no more. It explodes, releasing its viral hoard into the surrounding area.

Either way, the viral progeny go on to infect new cells–and the cycle starts again. Disease symptoms can and do result from this cellular damage. Most often, though, the sickness you feel is the result of your immune system’s response to the foreign invader. And make no mistake, it will respond.

Rule for Viral Success #4:

Avoid the Cops

Your immune system’s first-responders act like beat cops on patrol 24/7. If they see anything amiss while walking the body’s beat, they make arrests. One kind of cellular cop, the phagocytes, will engulf strange viruses and digest them. Another kind, natural killer cells, recognizes suspect changes on the surface of infected cells and releases chemicals to disintegrate both virus and cell alike.

After spotting the infection, your body can launch a more specific and intensive attack. Proteins called antibodies surround, bind to, and neutralize viruses and other invaders in your bloodstream. Killer T cells mercilessly destroy infected cells and halt systemic infection. Both help your body remember the infection and mount a faster response to the same invader next time.

Still other players merit mention. When a cell does get infected with a virus, sometimes it manages to secrete small proteins called interferons that serve to warn neighboring cells of an imminent viral invasion. These “Paul Revere” proteins work by encouraging neighboring cells to synthesize proteins that can interfere with viral replication.