Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Deep Freeze

Today is my day off.

I don't get nearly enough of them, so I tend to overbook them in advance and then spend the actual Blessed Event wrapped in a blanket in my jammies drinking coffee and reading the New York Times and Tiny Cat Pants.

But today I sprung out of bed at the crack of 10:30 (the dog was barking at the meter reader) and have made an internal vow to tackle the project I've been dragging my feet over for months.

The deep freeze.
(cue dramatic ta-da music)

When we moved here from Arizona, we rented the biggest U-Haul truck made. But since we had all of my stuff and all of Lori's stuff from her previous life as a single person, and all of Katie's stuff, and all the stuff we couldn't pawn off on kids, coworkers, neighbors, etc....we had a lot of stuff.

Initially, we had to rent two storage units to contain it all. Then we whittled it down to one, then we bought the enormous two-story shed and moved the rest 0f it in there. Now comes the task of making sense of it all.

The deep freeze project is the thing I fear most. When we were cramming all of our stuff into the U-Haul, we crammed a disparate collection of crap into the deep freeze, including things that I would now classify as garbage. When we got it moved here (no mean feat...that sucker is heavy) I looked at it all and said, "What do you suppose I was thinking when I packed the potting soil and fireplace logs?"

So today, as my penance for sins as yet unnamed and possibly still unsinned, I'm going to empty the deep freeze, bleach it (I love bleach. I'm a med tech.) and make it safe for a side of beef.

Or, since I love my vegan daughters, a side of tofu.

And then I'm going to reward myself with a cold beer, a blanket, and Tiny Cat Pants.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What Was the Source of the Spark?

I had one of those funny days where I must be extra electrical, or extra magnetic, or extra something. I touched the touchpad on the spectrophotometric analyzer and it immediately froze up. Ditto the blood gas analyzer. All I had to do was walk by the hematology analyzer and it spontaneously rebooted.

And that reminded me of the time I fried my Dell Jukebox, a less stylish but (at the time) more powerful iPod.

I walked across the living room and picked it up off my desk. There was a massive spark, and it went black, except for the shape of my thumbprint on the screen. I played with the reset button for a while, removed the battery...all those things you do to reboot stuff. Finally, I called tech support.

I got a nice young woman in India, who wanted to be helpful, but she couldn't wrap her mind around the nature of the incident.

"What happened to the device?"

"I picked it up and apparently discharged a spark of static electricity, and fried it."

"What was the source of the spark?"


"No, no...I mean what electrical source?"

"My socks."

"What is that?"

"Socks? Those things that go on your feet?"

"Yes. What is that?"

"Like little sweaters for feet. Like gloves. They go on your feet inside your shoes."

"Well...what was the nature of the electrical source?"

"The socks generated static electricity on the rug."

"'re dissatisfied with the product?"

"No, I love the product, it just doesn't work anymore."

"Tell me...what was the source of the electrical charge?"

"My socks."

"I don't understand you. I will send you a replacement. Will that do?"

"Yes. Thank you."

Luckily, when I went on my electrically charged rampage today I was able to bring my own analyzers back up, with some help from Thomas. But I felt like Typhoid Evie by the time I went home. I'm thinking of changing my signature line to "Women want me, electronic devices fear me."

I feel like Moses, setting shrubbery on fire and then talking to it. I'm just that powerful.

The Cover-up of a Soldier's Death?

A PSA from Waveflux...

Private First Class LaVena Johnson
(Note: Please visit this page for a list of things you can do to help spread the word about LaVena's story.)

Once upon a time lived a young woman from a St. Louis suburb. She was an honor roll student, she played the violin, she donated blood and volunteered for American Heart Association walks. She elected to put off college for a while and joined the Army once out of school. At Fort Campbell, KY, she was assigned as a weapons supply manager to the 129th Corps Support Battalion.

She was LaVena Johnson, private first class, and she died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005, just eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The tragedy of her story begins there.

An Army representative initially told LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, that his daughter died of "died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries," but initially added that it was not a suicide. The subsequent Army investigation reversed this finding and declared LaVena's death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldier's family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Johnson pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died - two loose front teeth, a "busted lip" that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home - suggesting that "someone might have punched her in the mouth."

A promise by the office of Representative William Lacy Clay to look into the matter produced nothing. The military said that the matter was closed.

Little more on LaVena's death was said until St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV aired a story last night which disclosed troubling details not previously made public - details which belie the Army's assertion that the young Florissant native died by her own hand. The video of the report is available on the KMOV website.

Reporter Matt Sczesny spoke with LaVena's father and examined documents and photos sent by Army investigators. So far from supporting the claim that LaVena died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the documents provided elements of another scenario altogether:

  • Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
  • The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
  • Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
  • A blood trail outside the tent where Lavena's body was found
  • Indications that someone attempted to set LaVena's body on fire

The Army has resisted calls by Dr. Johnson and by KMOV to reopen its investigation.We have seen in other military deaths, most infamously that of Army Ranger and former professional football player Cpl. Pat Tillman, that the Army has engaged in an insulting game of deny and delay when it comes to uncovering embarrassing facts. Only when public and official attention is brought to bear on the matter - as happened, eventually and with great effort, with the case of Cpl. Tillman - do unpleasant truths come to light.

Astonishing as it seems, it takes that level of outrage to compel the Army to find the truth and tell it, to honor its own soldiers. No such groundswell has yet emerged in the case of LaVena; not enough voices have demanded that someone in the military, anyone, speak for her. At first glance, the contrast between the cases of Pat Tillman and LaVena Johnson seems vast, but at the core the situations are the same. In each case, the death of a young soldier in a dangerous place and time was not explained to the families they left behind, the families that gave them up so that they could serve us. An honest accounting of their passing is all the dead ask of us.
The mother of Pat Tillman put the matter in stark and honest terms:

"This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual," she said. "How are they treating others?"

In the case of Private First Class Johnson, we know the answer.

Send a message to your Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee:
DemocratsCarl Levin, Chairman (Michigan) Claire McCaskill (Missouri)Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts)Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia)Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut)Jack Reed (Rhode Island)Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii)Bill Nelson (Florida)E. Benjamin Nelson (Nebraska)Evan Bayh (Indiana)Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York)Mark L. Pryor (Arkansas)Jim Webb (Virginia)
RepublicansJohn McCain, Ranking Member (Arizona)John W. Warner (Virginia)James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma)Jeff Sessions (Alabama)Susan M. Collins (Maine)John Ensign (Nevada)Saxby Chambliss (Georgia)Lindsey O. Graham (South Carolina)Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina)John Cornyn (Texas)John Thune (South Dakota)Mel Martinez (Florida)

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Great Courses

I love opening the mail at work. Today there was a catalog for The Great Courses, available on DVD, CD, audiotape ... or you can download them and transfer them to a CD or mp3 player.

The Great Courses are offered by The Teaching Company, and they're described in the catalog as "the perfect anytime, anywhere intellectual indulgence. We've created more than 2,000 hours of stunning courses in literature, philosophy, history, the arts and sciences -- the finest achievements in human endeavor, thought, and expression -- yours for the sheer joy of learning."

Well, that just tickles every fancy I have! I'm not a big fiction reader, so books on tape don't have a huge appeal for me, but this just makes me salivate like Pavlov's pet puppy! And the best part is that they make it affordable!

If you sign up on their website, they'll send you information when a new course is offered, let you know when a live lecture is planned in your area, and store your "wish list" of lectures by category ... from anatomy and astronomy to world history and whatnot. They'll notify you when the course you're waiting for goes on sale ... and every course they offer goes on sale at least once a year.

They also have free topical and seasonal lectures to download, so I downloaded the 45 minute lecture on Martin Luther King. Handily, it takes exactly 45 minutes to drive to work.

Between Ev's Sirius radio with all those NPR stations and my wish list of Great Courses, we should know everything there is to know ... in about 2,000 hours.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy .... : )


Watchable Wildlife and Laundry

Oh...and after all that seriousness...

I walked into the laundry room with an enormous hamperful of clothes and heard chirping outside the window. Sage's metal water bowl was doing double duty as a bird bath. It was full of little birds splashing and chirping. Does that mean it's Spring?

I tried to get a picture, but they must be in the Witness Protection Program too. They left when they saw me.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More on People and Love and Life

I've been thinking about what Kwachie said below...

I think people are generally inclined to want to define other people neatly into some catagory that means something to them. We are variously described as smart, funny, angry, brave, controlling, compassionate, silly, insightful, nerdy, etc.

But the truth is that we're all of that, and more. When people try to define us according to their rigid definitions, they're bound to be disappointed or angry or fearful when we won't stay in the box they've drawn for us, and instead prove to be complex and multifaceted people.

The people who are most committed to us remaining in the framework they use to define us are the people who tend to be most upset when we show ourselves to be more than that. They're inclined to accuse us of "changing" if we insist on showing more of ourselves than the aspect they've chosen to see. Alternately, those who ultimately stay with us, either as friends or partners, are the people who are willing to let us be our whole selves and not demand that we stay in the box.

The way Lori and I hve been most successful in our relationship is in allowing each other to be three dimensional people, finding the strengths in each other's quirks, and acknowledging and then letting go of the stuff that doesn't move the relationship forward. I'm not sure if that's a function of maturity, or of finding someone who's style is a good fit, but it reinforces the staircase metaphor for me.

The staircase metaphor, for those of you who don't know, is related to my opinion that relationships aren't static...they're always evolving. Assume that every relationship starts out at the middle of a flight of stairs; every time that relationship faces a challenge, it moves up or down a step. If the challenges give us an opportunity to come together and face them and strengthen the bond, we move up a step. If they cause a rift...a "gotcha" moment, or an opportunity to assign blame or emotional's a step down.

If every challenge results in disappointment or recrimination or blame, the relationship descends those stairs until it becomes effortless for one or the other person to just step off and walk away.

One of the best relationships I've ever seen was my ex-husband's parents. Their troubles were their troubles...not his or hers. They faced difficulty as a team. Since no one is privy to the inner working of other people's relationships, I'm sure they faced obstacles that I'm unaware of, but they rallied and supported each other.

He died last week, after 55 years of marriage. I admired their deep and unswerving love for each other and their commitment to their marriage. I can only hope that when Lori and I die, our kids will look back at us the same way, as role models for their good relationships.

Now if we could just get married...


Gift Exchange

Robert Burns once wrote, "O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!"


How much of "how others see us" is the gift-wrapping, and how much is what's really in the box? And when they do get beyond the wrapping and look in the box, how much of what they see there is about us, and how much of it is about how they see themselves in relation to us?

I see a lot of people trying to tell other people "how I see you" ... and I wonder what that does for either party.

When we met, Ev and I described ourselves to each other, in large part, in terms of our failings in other relationships. We thought it was only fair to warn each other about "how others see us."

We kept waiting for those failings to become issues in our relationship and cause that slip from the honeymoon phase to the "you drive me crazy" stage ... but it still hasn't happened, even though we're the same people we were in other relationships and we've seen each other at our best and at our worst. Maybe the fault wasn't ours. Maybe it wasn't theirs. Maybe the compatibility of humans is as much of a puzzle as blood typing, and maybe it doesn't make you flawed to be incompatible, any more than O positive blood is inherently "better" than AB negative.

After three years together our compatibility is well established. The stuff that caused emotional hemolysis in our other relationships turns out to be the stuff that makes our relationship work. And the more people point out our "flaws" the more we realize how lucky we were to have our lives transfused with each other and not with them.

How about letting other people be who they are, working on knowing and being happy with who you are, and then finding people who are compatible with you? That's a concept.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is it a Job or a Game?

This is my weekend to work (or at least to go to the lab and blog while I get paid). We're on minimum staffing on the weekends, which is mostly fine since we're on minimum workload most weekends.

So I took this opportunity to work on my CAP survey in Blood Bank. CAP, which stands for the College of American Pathologists, require every tech to do proficiency testing in each department they work in a couple of times a year in order to maintain their certification. Since I'm a generalist, I do two CAP surveys a year in each of: blood bank, hematology, coagulation, chemistry, body fluids, and urinalysis. Some of the surveys are as simple as doing QC (quality control) on an analyzer and then running the specimen like a patient specimen, but the blood bank surveys are usually a little trickier.

Today's survey was a blood type and Rh, an antibody screen, and a DAT. The DAT (direct antiglobulin test) is a test for early exposure to an antibody, while it's still bound to the patient's red cells on their antigenic sites. Later, the antibody is found circulating in the plasma, but it takes a few weeks for the immune system to start producing it's own antibodies after exposure. Once the antibody is in the plasma, by the way, it's found with an antibody screen, and then an antibody ID panel, which is also called an indirect antiglobulin test. all that? The reason it's pertinent is that blood banking is fun. It's like a puzzle game. You start with a tube of whole blood in EDTA anticoagulent. You spin it down to seperate the red cells from the plasma, and then you start picking the puzzle apart. Is it positive for an unexpected antibody? Is it an autoantibody (generated by the patient's own an allergy) or an alloantibody (generated in response to exposure from a previous transfusion or other outside source)? If it's an autoantibody, is it masking an underlying alloantibody? Is there one antibody, or more than one? What can be ruled out conclusively? What can be ruled in definitively?

It's like a sudoku puzzle or a crossword puzzle. You look at the evidence, form a hypothesis, and start testing that hypothesis. If it turns out to be start again.

It's particularly fun when there's time to play around with it in your head. Not while the patient is bleeding to death in the ER, for instance. When it's a survey, and you know there will be a puzzle designed into it (because it's a proficiency test), and nobody's life depends on it being done speedy-quicko.

So my imaginary survey patient today turned out to be a B pos patient with a DAT that's positive for IgG antibody on the red cells, but not for complement.

And now I'm feeling that free feeling you get when you have Monday's homework done on Friday night, because I won't have to do another blood bank survey until summer. :-)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Southern Illinois Fun

Okay, now my life is complete.

I got a Sirius radio for Christmas from Lori, but the radio it played through in my truck was pretty crummy, so I was losing it's wonderfulness to bad reception. But today I got a spiffy new radio installed in the truck that has "audio in" ports so that I can plug the satallite radio AND the iPod into it.

So I was driving in to work this afternoon and the sun was shining and the music was good, and then I switched it to NPR...and the sun was STILL shining and the conversation was good.

Oh, and that reminds me...on the way home from work last night, when I crested the hill in front of my mom's house there was a herd of deer in the road...maybe 20 of them. And those cheeky bastards didn't move when I approached them. I sat still for a minute, then I sort of nosed my way into the herd. They stepped out of the path of the truck, but didn't actually move off the road. I had the somewhat surreal experience of looking at their little deer-ish faces out of both windows, while they looked back at me. It felt like that scene at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when the humans and the aliens are standing and staring at each other on the tarmac. I eased past them, and we all checked each other out. I guess I checked out okay, since no one put an antler or a hoof through my window.

However, I felt an overwhelming impulse to make a mashed potato mountain when I got home...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

News That Caught My Eye

Here's a few stories that interested me this week:

Sirius and XM are attempting a merger, which is interesting but shouldn't affect my radio life much. As long as both NPRs and BBC World Service are still available to me, they can pretty much turn the rest of the service into All Howard Stern All The Time for all I care.

The question is will it get past the FCC? And the answer seems to be, "Probably."

If they can convince the review panel that their competition is not with each other, but is instead with broadcast radio, the merger will be approved. If not, it'll perfectly fit the definition of a monopoly and go down in flames, like the EchoStar/DirecTV merger.

Why the endless mating dance between AT&T and the Baby Bells slips under the FCC radar, by the way, continues to mystify me. They break up and get back together more than even the most volatile lesbian relationships.

The consensus in my workplace is that even if they merge, not much will change, except that we'll all end up forced to buy "new, improved" receivers for $100.

There was a fascinating article yesterday in the Washington Post about soldiers languishing in government limbo at Walter Reed army hospital while the army decides whether to pay them for their disabilities or not.

Once again, the Bush Administration is having a priority problem. They're willing to spend trillions on the nifty toys of war, but pinch pennies on caring for the men and women that actually do the fighting. Maybe if the troops were classified as machinary instead of humans, they could get better maintenance.

The army like to trot out these kids for parades and medal ceremonies on the White House lawn, but they are parsing their disabilty ratings as if it's coming out of the pentagon generals' own paychecks. As it stands, a disabled war vet in Washington seems to have a better chance of getting a photo op with the President than he does of getting a disability check. What's wrong with that picture?

What else?

The price of gas seems to be creeping back up, but Pulaski County is getting an ethanol plant.

You'd think that the county had bagged the site of the second coming of Jesus Christ for all the crowing they're doing about this factory. Let's hope that it actually does provide 3,000 good paying jobs, increase the tax base, and reduce the price at the pumps like the county promises. I'm reserving judgment until we see if the secondary effects include toxic runoff into the rivers and lakes and an influx of carpetbaggers and tract housing.

As Robin says...the subdivisions may be just around the corner.

Happy Wednesday!


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Don't Like the Weather? Wait a Week.

Saturday, February 17 ...

Tuesday, February 20 ... 3:00pm

Tuesday, February 20 ... 5pm

I said I wanted to live in a place that had seasons. I didn't mean I wanted to have them all in the same week!

I left for work yesterday wearing my usual layers and a jacket. I drove home with the top down on the convertible. Today it's wet and muddy. I anticipate that tomorrow the leaves, which are beginning to bud, will have matured and begun bursting into autumn colors.

This isn't global warming ... it's weather hiccups!


Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy President's Day!

When did President's Day get to be a real holiday?

We've been seeing ads for President's Day sales all week. Katie has the day off school. Jewelry stores are advising shoppers about President's Day diamond pendants.

How did this happen? Can the promotion of Earth Day, Arbor Day and Flag Day be far behind?

I think of the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's as "the Holiday Season." This year, it seems like we barely healed from the Holiday Season (which, BTW, barely precedes the Mud Season) before the barrage of Valentine's Day advertising. Now that THAT'S ended, we seamlessly segued into President's Day advertising.

I think I get it now. It's like frogs crossing the pond by jumping from lily pad to lily pad. Americans traverse a calender year by jumping from shopping holiday to shopping holiday.

Now that President's Day is behind us, it's time to contemplate the Easter fashions in our future. After Easter, I suppose I ought to start saving up for that Memorial Day diamond bracelet for Kwachie.

Luckily, once the flags are all put up for Memorial Day, it's only a hop and a skip to Independence Day. Then Labor Day...does Labor Day need a flag, or is it one of those commie holidays where we're supposed to sit around singing "Joe Hill" and "Look For the Union Label"...while we exchange diamond bracelets?

And then...Voila! It's the Holiday Season! Again!

Start shopping! I think we're only six lily pads away from Christmas.

Oh...and this didn't survive the transfer too well, but it still cracked me up. I think this is as much President's Day celebration as I can tolerate.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Prettiness, Math Problems, and a Cautionary Tale

Below is the State Pond, my favorite fishing spot. Yesterday, after our 1" blizzard, Lori and I headed out to our favorite spots to see what they looked like in the snow.

We were laughing because yesterday was the day before our one year anniversary of arriving here, and we finally got the last of our stuff out of storage.

We've been busy. :-)

We were so happy about actually living with all our stuff again that we rewarded ourselves with our favorite pastime, driving around and listen to the radio and talking aimlessly. We drove out to the State Pond to see how it looked in the winter, and it was pretty nifty. The wind was blowing hard, and the pines were swaying.

They actually whispered, like the cliche always says. I think they were whispering something like "Destroy WWET with your secret insidious machiavellian plot to have intelligent conversations with people who aren't bitter"...but I can't be sure. I wish the pines would speak up.

We hiked around to the spillway side of the pond, and the ice looked thin there, so I asked Kwachie if she would mind if I threw a heavy branch out onto it to see how thick it was, since I didn't want to mess up her picture-taking. She thought that might be interesting too, and I threw a limb out onto the ice. Not only did the ice not break, but the stick skittered out a long way without disturbing the ice one whit. Above is a picture of the actual stick, not a photoshopped replica or anything.

This, kids, is science in the real world. If we extrapolate the weight of the stick, the force of the throw, the acceleration due to gravity, and the density of the ice under standard temperature and pressure, we should be able to determine why we became biologists and not physicists.

After not attempting this math problem, we walked up the little road in the picture above that we used to walk up in the summertime, but now it has a sign that says "road closed", no doubt to protect those of us who aren't smart enough to stay home in a blizzard.

On the way home we went past the Hay House, so named because the story goes that this beautiful old house on a hill was built by a father as a wedding present for his daughter. When she refused to live in it because it was too far from town, he used it as a hay barn. It's still a beautiful house, but the windows are all knocked out and you can see the hay rolls inside. The barn has collapsed in that special way that barns collapsed, where they just get tired of standing and gently lower themselves to the ground...but on the same footprint they had while standing. It ends up looking like it was squashed by an enormous foot.

Similar to the way that the Evil Overlord Kwachie has metaphorically squashed WWET with her Evil Footprint of Conversational Doom. As her Potted Plant, I can only shudder in impotent dismay, desperately photosynthesizing for all I'm worth, at this Creepy Conspiracy.

(That last part was so the trolls have something to shriek about later. "I knew it! It was all part of their evil scheme! See? See? See how bad they are?")

You're welcome, Trolls. :-)


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Shawnee, how I love ya, how I love ya ...

Dateline: February 17, 2007

Your intrepid Bloggers spent the day driving around Union County in search of 4+ prettiness, and found it!

Just outside of Jonesboro we took a turn down Kornthal Church Road and crossed this icy little creek ...

... to get you a picture of the historic Kornthal Church, built in 1852.

And here are some chubby geese frolicking in the semi-frozen slush of the wildlife refuge.

My job is to take the pictures. Ev's job is to drive the hazardous icy roads to get us to the places to take the pictures.

Her job is also to write interesting Blog entries, which she's promised to do tomorrow, when we will present ...

Jonesboro State Pond in Winter!



No one can make me grumpy today!

Okay, Tim, it's not piled up to our windowsills ... and no, Ann, no one had to go shovel it away from the door ... but by jiminy, it's snow! Enough to shock the dog when her toes got covered this morning. And enough to make me believe it really does, occasionally, snow in Southern Illinois.

We had our first (and probably last) official Snow Advisory last night ... for "blowing snow." It snowed for several hours, but the "blowing" part sent most of it on up the road to Carbondale. What did manage to slam into something and stop in our yard looks very pretty!

Here's a view of our back yard and Ev's shed:

And here's the view from the front porch.
It's already warming up out there, and I don't think our little Winter Wonderland is destined to last long, so I thought I'd better get a couple of pictures of the "snow of ought 7" while I could. While I was outside snapping these for you in my fluffy white slippers and robe, Katie and Dane drove up and didn't see me in my "snow camo" ... : )

It doesn't look like I'll be getting any snow days off work this year, so me and Jesus H. Chrysler will probably be back on the road Monday like none of this ever happened ... but in the meantime, doesn't she look cold????

Time for a cup of coffee and a Netflix!!


Friday, February 16, 2007

One Hot Archaeological Find

Chili Peppers Spiced Up Life 6,100 Years Ago

By David BrownWashington
Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 16, 2007; A01

Inhabitants of the New World had chili peppers and the makings of taco chips 6,100 years ago, according to new research that examined the bowl-scrapings of people sprinkled throughout Central America and the Amazon basin.

Upcoming questions on the research agenda -- and this is not a joke -- include: Did they have salsa? When did they get beer?

The findings described today in a 15-author report in the journal Science make the chili pepper the oldest spice in use in the Americas, and one of the oldest in the world.

The researchers believe further study may show that the fiery pod was used 1,000 years earlier than their current oldest specimen, as it shows evidence of having been domesticated, a process that would have taken time. If so, that would put chili peppers in the same league (although probably not the same millennium) as hoarier spices such as coriander, capers and fenugreek.

The chili pepper, however, makes up for its junior status with rapid spread and wild popularity. Within decades of European contact, the New World plant was carried across Europe and into Africa and Asia, adopted widely, and further altered through selective breeding.

Today, the chili pepper is an essential cooking ingredient in places as different as Hungary (where paprika is a national symbol), Ethiopia (where signature spice, berbere, is a mixture of chili powder and half a dozen other substances), and China (where entire cuisines are built around its heat).

In all seven New World sites where chili pepper residue was found, the researchers also detected remnants of corn. That suggests the domestication of the two foods -- still intimately paired in Latin American cuisine -- may have gone hand in hand.

The study, led by Linda Perry of the Smithsonian Institution, does more than illuminate one aspect of early cooking. It provides details about early plant cultivation in South America, where agriculture emerged independent of its "discovery" in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.
Chili residue was found in both the Amazon basin and on the coast of Ecuador. Because the plants don't grow in the high, arid regions where advanced Andean cultures evolved, the domestication probably occurred in more primitive, tropical cultures, which then traded domesticated plants across the mountains.

"The usual idea is that the tropical lowlands were mostly on the receiving end, that they were not areas of innovation. Now our findings are beginning to cast doubt on that," said J. Scott Raymond, an archaeologist at the University of Calgary and co-author of the paper. Artifacts he excavated in western Ecuador contained chili residue.

The research also advances techniques in "archaeobiology," a discipline that fuses archaeology and, in this case, botany. Specifically, it shows that the study of microscopic starch granules stuck in the crevices of cooking implements can reveal foods that weren't thought to have enough starch in them to be traceable.

Peppers are in the botanical family Solanaceae, which includes tomatoes, another popular New World plant. A high priority now, Perry said, is to see if there are overlooked and still preserved starches from tomatoes in ancient implements.

Many plants have distinctive starch granules visible when dissolved in water and viewed under a microscope. A scientist recognized in 1913 that they could be used to identify the presence of different species. But only recently have researchers discovered that starch could survive for thousands of years in the "microclimate" of tiny pits in ancient implements dug up from warm and wet environments, where other plant material had long ago rotted away.

"They are really tough little guys," Perry said.

She went to work in 2005 trying to identify a starch granule she saw in material provided by Raymond, who had been excavating a 6,100-year-old site in western Ecuador for many years. It clearly wasn't from any of the usual sources such as yams, potatoes or cassava.

Perry recalled hearing that chilies can cause gas and diarrhea in some people, and those are problems often blamed on undigested starches. This seemed odd, because peppers weren't thought to have starches.

"And that is when the light bulb went on. What if they do?" she said.

She went to the Smithsonian's storehouse of plant material in Suitland, Md., and retrieved a sample of wild chili. It included a small fruit -- a pepper. She rubbed it on a slide, added water and looked through the microscope. She saw tiny starch granules.

Next, she looked at samples of modern, domesticated chili peppers. Their granules were much larger and had a characteristic central depression. The mystery granule looked just like them.
Ultimately, she found traces of at least three different kinds of peppers, already domesticated, from seven sites.

It's impossible to identify with certainty the first spice ever sprinkled on a roasting haunch or thrown into a stew pot. But Wendy L. Applequist, an ethnobotanist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, said capers have been found at 10,000-year-old sites in Iran and Iraq; coriander at an 8,500-year-old site in Israel; and fenugreek in Syria's Tell Aswad, which is 9,000 years old. Whether these were domesticated or wild is not known.

As for the beer, David John Goldstein, an anthropologist at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, said the New World's oldest dedicated brewery is at a 2,600-year-old site in southern Peru. There, people from the Wari empire made a drink called chicha from the sugary seeds of a tree and used it for ceremonial purposes.

Goldstein, who has brewed his own, says it has "a sort of dirty-sock taste, deep, very sour, acrid." But the alcohol works, and he is sure some version of it was made much earlier and in many other places.


Thank the Prime Mover it's Friday! I'm pretty sure this week has been dragging on for about six months. I was still a fairly young woman when it started.

It's that time of the year now in the midwest in which it's perpetually cold and dark. I know Spring is right around the corner, but I'm ready for some warm sunny days on the porch NOW. I'm looking forward to one of our favorite summertime activities: sitting on the porch and watching the woman across the road drink and mow her yard in increasingly erratic circles.

But...the bright side (and who didn't know I'd have a bright side?) is that I don't work this weekend, which means I get to spend it with Kwachie. We're overdue for a dinner date and some quality time, and I'm looking forward to that. And a Netflix. And snuggling up to watch it under a down quilt.

See? I'm easy. :-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Today's writing assignment from the other blog I contribute to was a discussion about the word "Frenemy", a word with which I was unfamiliar before today, but which resounds mightily once defined.

A frenemy is defined thusly:

Frienemy (FREN.uh.mee) n. An enemy who acts like a friend; a fair-weather or untrustworthy friend. Also: frenemy.

After befriending more than a few of the denizens of WWET over the years, I had become intimitely educated on the definition of a frenemy and needed only a word to apply to it.

So before I actually took keyboard in hand this morning, I drank my coffee, read the NY Times and the Washington Post, and pondered perfidy. What drives people to insinutate themselves into the lives of strangers and use that relationship as the springboard to mount their highwire act of melodrama? Who would prefer the emotional danger of betraying a friendship to the safety of standing solidly on the ground with a trusted friend? And can there be any dismount from that tightrope except a fall?

Remember the parable about the scorpion and the frog?

The frog gives the scorpion a ride across the river on it's back, trusting that their mutually assured destruction will keep the scorpion from stinging him. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As they're sinking into the water, the frog says, "Why did you do that? Now we'll both die!"

And the scorpion says, "I cannot help myself. That is my nature."

I think that's the nature of people who eventually show themselves to be "frenemies." Although they may desire to have friends and community, they can't help sabotaging those relationships. It is their nature.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Play it, Sam...For Old Times' Sake.

Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought this might be an excellent time to sing the praises of my two Life Partners: Lori and MelonKiwi.
Lori is everything I've ever dreamed of in a girlfriend...she's loving, friendly, funny, resiliant, feisty, brave, and a Sex Goddess (sorry kids. I know...TMI). I marvel at the good fortune that had me arrive on her doorstep on that April day.

If she died, I wouldn't really have sex on her grave with some floozy I picked up in a bar... but don't tell her. I want her to worry about it enough to take her blood pressure medicine and grow old(er) with me.

Next to Lori, the greatest love of my life (cue swelling music) is MelonKiwi... or Mr. Wi, His Beautiful Wi-ness, Melon Louise. It was also an act of serendipitous luck that brought Mr. Wi and I together on that fateful evening in the Dixie Barbecue parking lot. And great luck that beneath his filthy, matted fur and ungodly flatulence, his essential Wi-ness shone through (but not his essential wenis...that's still buried somewhere in all the fluff).

Were I not an unrepentent Atheist, I would praise some higher power for bringing these two into my life. But since I'm a Godless heathen/secular humanist/commie pinko dyke who's going to spend eternity in the fiery pits of hell for my unnatural loves, liberal politics, and nonbelieverhood, I'll just quote the famous philospher:

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,
she walks into mine"
Happy Valentines Day, Lori. I love you more than I could ever say.
(oh...and click the title. There's a link to "Middle Aged Women". It starts out slow, but listen to the end. You'll be glad.)

Like the Swallows to Capistrano, They Eventually Come Back

From sunny Tucson to snowy Southern Illinois. It's both weather and culture shock.
It looks like my eldest is feeling the pull of the ancestral homeland. Yay! We've missed them a ton. I think I was just a hair away from naming the cats and plants after them.
She and her eternal-boyfriend-but-never-quite-husband will be moving here in the Springtime or, as it is affectionately known, the Mud Season. That means they'll have to stow the flannel for a few months, but they can break out the duck boots and bug dope right away.
Remember, it's only 90 degrees here in the summer, but it's a wet heat!

Happy Valentine's Day

It's that time of year again ...

... time to fatten up our sweethearts with 5 pounds of chocolate or break the bank with a couple dozen roses ...

... or simply say, "Good morning! I love you again today!"

So, good morning, Ev ... I love you again today!

If I had a million dollars I'd go to Rural King and buy you something in John Deere green.

: )


Monday, February 12, 2007

Across the Great Divide: Investigating Links Between Personality and Politics

From The New York Times:
February 12, 2007

Folk music and a collection of feminist poetry may well be dead giveaways that there is a liberal in the house. But what about an ironing board or postage stamps or a calendar?

What seem to be ordinary, everyday objects to some people can carry a storehouse of information about the owner’s ideology, says a new wave of social scientists who are studying the subtle links between personality and politics.

Research into why someone leans left or right — a subject that stirred enormous interest in the aftermath of World War II before waning in the 1960s — has been revived in recent years, partly because of a shift in federal funds for politics and terrorism research, new technology like brain imaging and a sharper partisan divide in the nation’s political culture.

“I believe that recent developments in psychological research and the world of politics — including responses to 9/11, the Bush presidency, the Iraq War, polarizing Supreme Court nominations, Hurricane Katrina, and ongoing controversies over scientific and environmental policies — provide ample grounds for revisiting” the psychological basis of Americans’ opinions, party and voting patterns, John T. Jost, a psychologist at New York University, wrote in a recent issue of American Psychologist.

The newest work in the field, found in a growing number of papers, symposiums and college courses, touches on factors from genetics to home décor. Some people have greeted the results with fascination. Books by George Lakoff, a linguist and cognitive scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the psychological power of metaphors and the framing of issues, became required reading among Democrats after their defeat in the 2004 elections. Others have been decidedly less thrilled with studies they say portray conservatives as pinched and neurotic.

For anyone who assumes political choices rest on a rational analysis of issues and self-interest, the notion that preference for a candidate springs from the same source as the choice of a color scheme can be disturbing. But social psychologists assume that all beliefs, including political ones, partly arise from an individual’s deep psychological fears and needs: for stability, order and belonging, or for rebellion and novelty.

These needs and worries vary in degree, develop in childhood and probably have a temperamental and a genetic component, said Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland. A study of twins, for instance, has shown that a conservative or progressive orientation can be inherited, while a decades-long study has found that personality traits associated with liberalism or conservatism later in life show up in preschoolers.

No one is arguing that an embrace of universal national health care or tax cuts arises because of a chromosome or the unconscious residue from a schoolyard spat. What Mr. Jost and Mr. Kruglanski say is that years of research show that liberals and conservatives consistently match one of two personality types. Those who enjoy bending rules and embracing new experiences tend to turn left; those who value tradition and are more cautious about change tend to end up on the right.

What’s more, these traits are reflected in musical taste, hobbies and décor. Dana R. Carney, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, who worked with Mr. Jost and Samuel D. Gosling of the University of Texas at Austin among others, found that the offices and bedrooms of conservatives tended to be neat and contain cleaning supplies, calendars, postage stamps and sports-related posters; conservatives also tended to favor country music and documentaries. Bold-colored, cluttered rooms with art supplies, lots of books, jazz CDs and travel documents tended to belong to liberals (providing sloppy Democrats with an excuse to refuse clean up on principle).

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, said he found this work intriguing but was more inclined to see a person’s moral framework as a source of difference between liberals and conservatives. Most liberals, he said, think about morality in terms of two categories: how someone’s welfare is affected, and whether it is fair. Conservatives, by contrast, broaden that definition to include loyalty, respect for authority, and purity or sanctity. Conservatives have a richer, more elaborate moral horizon than liberals, Mr. Haidt said, because there is a “whole dimension to human experience best described as divinity or sacredness that conservatives are more attuned to.”

So how does he explain the red-blue divide? “Areas with less mobility and less diversity generally have the more traditional,” broadened definition of morality, “and therefore were more likely to vote for George W. Bush — and to tell pollsters that their reason was ‘moral values,’ ” he and his co-writer, Jesse Graham, say in a paper to be published this year by The Journal Social Justice Research.

Mr. Jost did his own research on the red-blue divide. Using the Internet he and his collaborators gave personality tests to hundreds of thousands of Americans. He found states with people who scored high on “openness” were significantly more likely to have voted for the Democratic candidate in the past three elections, even after adjustments were made for income, ethnicity and population density. States that scored high on “conscientiousness” went Republican in the past three elections.

Some of these psychological studies have been dogged by charges of bias however. In 2003 a mammoth survey of more than 50 years of research on the psychology of conservatism that Mr. Jost and Mr. Kruglanski undertook with the help of Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway at Berkeley concluded that conservatives tend to be “rigid,” “close-minded” and “fearful,” less tolerant of minorities and more tolerant of inequality. At the time the conservative columnist George F. Will ridiculed the results: “The professors have ideas; the rest of us have emanations of our psychological needs and neuroses.”

The authors insist they are not making value judgments; whether a particular trait is positive or negative depends on circumstance. “Fear of death has the highest correlation with being conservative,” Mr. Sulloway said. But he continued: “What’s wrong with fearing death? If you don’t fear death, evolution eliminates you from the population.”

Accusations of bias against conservatives go way back, to Theodor Adorno and other scholars who, after World War II, came up with the “authoritarian personality” to explain the link between the far right and fascist regimes.

As for the present research, John Zaller, a political scientist at Berkeley, said: “I am personally embarrassed by some of the leading work by psychologists on personality and conservatism. I take the data to be valid, but I feel the manner of describing it too often sets up conservatives to look bad.”

Mr. Haidt, who agrees liberals and conservatives have distinct dispositions, still thinks bias is a problem: “Our own biases as researchers — because we are almost all liberal — make it difficult for us to understand the psychology of conservatives.”

A slanted interpretation isn’t the only cause of skepticism. Definitions of liberal and conservative shift, critics say. How would you define a liberal or conservative in the former Soviet Union? And what about people who are conservative on economic policy but liberal on social issues?
What is important, said Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University, is how psychological tendencies are translated into views about specific political issues: “In 2000, George W. Bush ridiculed nation-building; now he seems pretty committed,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “Which of those positions (if either) represents rigidity, resistance to change, or discipline? On the other hand, how many flexible, curious, open-to-experience liberals do you know who want to experiment with restructuring the Social Security system?”

Personality may have something to do with a particular political outlook, he said, but so do a lot of other things.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Like a Chemotrophic Unicellular Slime Mold, Our Love Grows Without Boundaries

Carrie, my eldest child, who I used to love, has informed me that her friend Ursula AND Ursula's mother both read our blog. That brings our readership over 10 normal people, and 20 or so creepy trolls. That's a lot of pressure!

However, as a sporadically dedicated chronicler of the lesser things in life, I can appreciate those hardy folks who wade through our photos of the attractions of Southern Illinois, skinless people, and luggage in search of cheap amusement. I myself have been known to watch the Jesus Show and Moto-X racing on Sundays mornings in an effort to find intellect-free entertainment in a one TV channel household.

However, you all know where the "post comment" button is, so I blame you, Dear Readers, for the occasional dry spells. You see, Nurse Ann? In the end, the blame invariably falls on the mothers. That's why we get the big bucks.

Ursula, I know you're fluent in English (and presumably so is your mom, since she raised you), because I read your blog. So you have no excuse for not joining in...either of you. And as a fellow Carrie-phile, you must know that to be our neighbor is to become one of us. Soon you too will wear flannel and do math problems for fun in your head. Mwa-ha-ha!

Welcome to the family, Ursula and Ursula's Mom!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Just a few more minutes, honey ... I'm almost a Level 15 Mage ...

Naw, this isn't really someone who's spent way too much time playing EverQuest.

It's the work of Dr. Gunther Von Hagens, an anatomist who developed the plastination method for preserving tissue, and then took the show on the road.

The BodyWorlds museum exhibitions, featuring whole-body "plastinates" in varying stages of dissection displayed in athletic and other natural poses, have been viewed by 20 million people all over the world ... and we're about to make that 20 million and TWO.

I first heard about the exhibit five years ago, and I've been (for lack of a better term) dying to see it. Just yesterday I found out that it's at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago until April 29th, and Ev has graciously (if somewhat green-around-the-gills-ishly) agreed to drive six hours and go with me to see dead people as art.

This, on the heels of the news story about the 5000-year-old couple found in an eternal embrace, has had me thinking about death for the past few days.

Death isn't something I've ever been afraid of. Although the process of going through it doesn't excite me very much, the state of death seems okay to me, and I don't much care what becomes of my mortal coil afterward

But, IF I decide to make some kind of statement with my death, or choose to devote it to some purpose, I'd rather no one thwarted that effort. If I were 1/2 of that 5000-year-old couple, for instance, who made a conscious and visible choice about how they wished to spend death, I'd be mightily pissed if someone came along and took us apart to check out our teeth. I say that kind of monument to love is more important than the wear patterns on a set of 5000-year-old molars.

If Ev weren't so squeamish I'd suggest donating ourselves to Dr. Hagens to be the first plastinated lesbian couple. Not only could we travel the world in a state of eternal lesbian partnership ... we'd be all lean and toned, and we'd never have to worry about a bad hair day!



Blogger's Block

I have a bad case of blogger's block. Nothing is inspiring me to great acts of musing this week.

Here's what's going on in the world:

Anna Nicole Smith is dead. She had such an odd life, her untimely death seems sort of...typical for her.

The astronaut woman drove across the country in a NASA-issued diaper to kidnap the woman who was a rival for her boyfriend's affection. A knife, a rubber hose, pepper spray, and a diaper. Nothing can be added to that story to make it more titillating.

Eddie Murphy made a bad movie in which he plays a fat old woman...again.

It's cold in Illinois, but in New York they got 100 inches of snow. I think we may have gotten 100 inches of mud this year.

George Bush is still a moron.

Happy, Nurse Ann? :-)


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Superbowl Gay Panic

Apparently the culturally sensitive outrage du jour is over the Superbowl Snicker's candy bar ad, in which two men working on a car are so enamored of their Snicker's bar that they eat it from both ends until they end up in a kiss. One says to the other, "Quick! Do something manly!" At that point, they both rip out fistfuls of chest hair. was dumb, and it played into all sorts of stereotypes about homophobic gearheads. But was it damaging to the gay community?


Showing dumb,straight white guys being dumb, straight and white doesn't reflect on the GLBT community in the slightest. If anything, it sort of plays on the goofy over-the-top paranoia of a segment of the population who fear gayness more than anything short of death.

I read some other blogger comparing it to the murder of Matthew Shepard. That's a little too melodramatic for my taste. I didn't feel threatened or demeaned by that 30 seconds of overblown Gay Panic. I just rolled my eyes and thought, "what a pair of dorks."


Monday, February 05, 2007

Da (sob) Bears!

Well...The Bears lost. But I don't think of it as a loss, I think of it as a non-win. In a big way. They managed to non-win at just about every position except kickoff returner. Devin Hester was one of the very few bright spots. Rex Grossman...well, I'll bet his mother still loves him.

However, say what you will about the Bears (and we did...several times loudly), at least they managed to actually get to the Superbowl, and they never tried to sneak away to another city in the dead of night.

Oh...and they play outside and wear primary colors like real men, and not in some sissy dome all decked out in teal or lavender or whatever the lesser teams are wearing these days.

So now it'll be something of a sports wasteland until baseball season starts. And really, I can't get too excited about baseball until the weather warms up. Playing baseball in April is just wrong. No one should ever have to clear the snow off the field for a baseball game.

But in the meantime, the SIU basketball Salukis are ranked number 10 in the nation. I'm not much of a basketball fan, but I'll watch the NCAAs in March and root for them as long as they stay alive. After that, I'll be for anyone that plays against Duke or Michigan.

So this weekend Lori and I will hit the stores looking for the perfect Bears sweatshirts, something that will soothe our battered Bears pride and inspire us to greatness next Fall. Something we can treasure during the 20 year drought before their next Superbowl appearance.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Why It's Good To Be Evie...

It's Friday, which is good, but it's the middle of winter and Saturday is going to be a chore day...which is less good. But the carrot to go with that stick is that if we do a good job on our chores on Saturday we can spend all day Sunday watching the Bears play (with the preceding 6 hour pregame show to whet our appetites), with the clear conscience of people who have achieved something first.

That's the funny thing about's a great excuse for malaise. It's too hot to contemplate doing anything in August and it's too cold in January. Once I overcome my own psychology, it's immensely satisfying to get something done during those days. I feel like I got some free off-season achievement. Anything accomplished outdoors when it's not 50 to 80 degrees feels like a bonus. It's like finding a "buy one, get one free" coupon on the soy milk carton.

Part of the legacy of my memory problem is that I tend to think that things have always been the way they are at this moment. If I'm happy, it's hard to imagine being unhappy. If I'm productive, I feel like I must be a productivity machine. But when I'm mired in sloth, it's hard to remember how satisfying it is to accomplish little things. So I force myself to start, knowing that the momentum will keep me going.

And then I tell Lori, "That was a great idea. Write that down, so I'll remember to do it again." Sometimes I imagine what the card file would look like if she actually wrote down everything I asked her to write down.

"The soap is in the second drawer in the right hand cabinet in the bathroom."

"Sex improves your outlook on life."

"We keep snack food in a drawer now. If it appears that there are no chips, look there before going to the store."

"I have rescue drugs available for the aftereffects of seizures. Use them. That's what they're for."

"The voice mail can be accessed thusly:..."

"Vacations are fun."

"There are more books in the shed. Look there before going to Barnes and Noble."

"Watch the Netflix movies, then send them back."

I'm not exactly sure how we would organize a card system like that, or when it would occur to me to actually look at them. And really, I sort of enjoy that moment of discovery. I couple of weeks ago, when we went for a mini-vacation, I kept thinking, "This is SUCH a great idea! We should do this more!" Like that's a great revelation.

So, that's it. I'm not particularly profound or insightful today, I won't be discovering cold fusion (...again. I didn't discover it yesterday either). I'm just excited about a weekend off to spend doing little things with Lori-Fred and watching the Bears.

Write that down, willya? :-)


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dashing Through the Snow...

...Well, okay. Maybe not dashing. Maybe it's more like shuffling. However, that's neither here nor there. The salient point is that it snowed!

This year holds the new record for the latest first snowfall of the year in Southern Illinois. It's been the balmiest January I can remember. But February is starting off with a bang.

The other less joyous event is that Molly Ivins died yesterday at 62, after her third go-round with breast cancer. What a loss. She, more than anyone else writing in the mainstream press, was able to see through the political crap and find it's impact on real people. The New York Times compared her to H.L. Mencken...and that seems right to me. I'm going to miss her terribly.

And now there is offically no one with a brain left in Texas. This would be an excellent time to give it back to Mexico and erect that wall that the Republicans are so eager to build.

Some observations by columnist and author Molly Ivins:

On conservative presidential candidate Pat Buchanan: "Many people did not care for Pat Buchanan's speech; it probably sounded better in the original German." -- published in The Nation, Sept. 14, 1992.

On politics: "You can't ignore politics, no matter how much you'd like to." -- published in the Charleston Gazette, Oct. 21, 2002.

On humor: "There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar." -- published in People, Dec. 9, 1991

On Americans: "I think there's more of us who still believe that Elvis is alive than understand the Theory of Relativity, but that's all right. It's fun to live in a country with some peculiar people. How boring it would be if everybody was quite sane." -- from Defining Americans, on National Public Radio, July 3, 1997

On vegetarianism: "I know vegetarians don't like to hear this, but God made an awful lot of land that's good for nothing but grazing." -- published in the Raleigh News and Observer, July 15, 2001

On gun control: "I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives." -- published in the Charleston Gazette, July 19, 1994

On Texas: "I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults." -- on CBS News' Sunday Morning, Jan. 5, 1992

Compiled by research librarian Darby Tober