Tarheel Tavern # 109 – One Bourbon, One Scotch and many a Blogger

It’s a lot of fun hosting a blogger carnival, I should know, I’ve never done it before. But on this beautiful spring day in Chapel Hill, everything seems wonderful, full of life and on the way up (talk to me in November for the other side!). To find out more about the carnival, including how to host one, go to the Tarheel Tavern mother ship.

Before I go any further, the very able and experienced Scrutiny Hooligans will be hosting the April Fools Day edition of the Tar Heel Tavern next week (or will they? It’s April 1! – No, they will, serious!).

Since we’re talking about the Scrutiny Hooligans (great name!), their featured post is about “The defense of marriage” and some rather interesting people involved (see if you can spot a theme!).

Thank God we are being protected by the aging white men you see pictured here. My favorite is this smiling dude to the right, Jim Forrester. He represents Gaston and Lincoln counties in the state senate. And once you get to know him, I know you’ll feel adequately protected from all harm.

He’s the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 13. It’s otherwise known as Defense of Marriage. You see, it’s not enough that there are laws in this state against marrying two people of the same gender.

People like Forrester, his co-sponsors, as well as the sponsors of the more recent House Bill 493, need to add an amendment to the state’s constitution. Don’t you feel the need for their protection? Help! Help! Potentially married gay people are stealing and murdering and otherwise harming me in some way I haven’t figured out yet. Help!

Go and see it, beautifully written (I love sarcasm!) and the pictures of all those “aging white men” does prove an important point about who makes decisions in this state/country and how such a small cultural demographic has such a disproportionately large impact on all our lives. I happen to believe that the fight against gay rights is a losing battle, the youth of this country grew up in a gay friendly culture and you know what, the key word in “Aging White Men” is Aging!!

We move on to Anton of Mistersugar:

Here in Durham, Callie the cat has in recent weeks got hold of baby squirrels and played that innate game of cat-and-mouse. But a squirrel makes one heck of a loud squeal when succumbing to Mother Nature, and my entreaties to Callie to leave the poor creature be just doesn’t work.

This echoes a conversation I was having last night about cats, and how I’ve never seen one catch a squirrel, I guess baby squirrels are easier, but I can’t imagine Clack my dog-cat (yes, there is such a beast, who will show you a belly to scratch, who will fetch sometimes, who will look goofy and ungainly at times) catching anything that moves. But he moves on to more serious things…

Looking at my resume file last night, I noticed a rash of typos in one section, and my heart sank. For all the proofreading over the Christmas holidays — me and three others — some keyboard slip introduced errors, and dammit if the printed resume I sent for that j-school job didn’t reflect those errors. Embarrassing, and maddening.

Well, been there, my friend, it is maddening, you would hope that people would look beyond your typos, you would hope that the friendly people at Microsoft (who are only looking out for you!) would develop an intelligence based proofing system (as opposed to Clippy!). But, it is March, so don’t be mad…

At the backyard feeder, the birds have returned: bluebirds and goldfinches and woodpeckers and mourning doves. Our friend Butch has kept us stocked with birdseed for three years now, and we’re the luckier for it.

It’s hard to be mad about anything for too long when it’s spring!

On to Abel Pharmboy of Terra Sigillata (man, most awesome moniker ever, tells you all you need to know!). I really like his blog because it is thoughtful, well reasoned, and he writes about things I know a little about and consider important, so I am able to relate. His featured post is about the source of prescription drugs.

Nature remains the source of 70% of prescription drugs

Category: ChemistryPharmaceuticalsPharmacognosyPharmacology
Posted on: March 20, 2007 10:01 AM, by Abel Pharmboy

So say the American elder statesmen of natural products in the 2007 update of their periodic review of the subject to be published in the 23 March issue of the Journal of Natural Products. (Details are in this Reuters article with by Julie Steenhuysen). I will post more about the article when I get my hands on it, but it comes from NCI’s Dr David Newman and recently-retired Dr Gordon Cragg. Cragg had led the NCI Natural Products Branch, a position that Newman now holds.

Hmm… Interesting, it is an article written by advocates of natural products, so once Abel Pharmboy gets his hands on the article and reads it (and posts about it, ahem!!), I will be interested in what he has to say (Does advocacy compromise accuracy?). Two things that struck me from the post…

Drug discovery hit a 24-year low in 2004, with just 25 unique compounds known as new chemical entities introduced that year, said David Newman, who runs the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s natural products branch

Well, I think that the dearth in drug discovery is not just an issue of new molecular entity search strategies. The drug companies make plenty of money making copycat and me-too products. Blockbuster innovation that revolutionizes a particular aspect of medicine (for example, statins and cholesterol control) does not come along that often because a) It’s hard b) Many of the low hanging fruit are gone c) There’s plenty of money being made at the long tail d) Patent law does not encourage innovation as much as it protects income (Read Dean Baker’s Conservative Nanny State).


More recently, some researchers have taken to cloning the biosynthetic genes whose encoded proteins are responsible for creating the natural compound.

Do you want to go the biological route, or the chemical route? That’s the debate, I guess it will be a bit of both. But Abel Pharmboy knows where the future is g
oing to be…

But the bottom line is that natural products represent medicine’s past, present and, hopefully, our future.

Preach it, brother Abel! – Great stuff!

Justin Thibault of The View from the Cheap Seats (a blog that focuses on Cabarrus County issues) has this contribution about economic and other issues surrounding the proposed North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. Here’s one of his posts about the NCRC. While he thinks it is not very engaging, it’s for me one of the things blogs are best at, fast and easy collection and dissemination of information. Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes a lot of work to collect a bunch of information and put it out there. His post demonstrates the incredible democratization of our political discourse in the last few years driven mainly by the internet and the combined people power of the blogosphere.

This is the raw data that members of the press were given this weekend on the North Carolina Research Campus from the City of Kannapolis.  I haven’t gotten a chance to go through it, myself; but some folks may find it interesting.

Easy as that, information that was once the privy of smoke filled back rooms (why are back rooms always smoke filled?) is out in the open for people to read, digest, and act upon. Great work!

Ron Hudson of 2sides2ron has this great post introducing Robin Hope, a parent of three HIV Positive children she adopted in the early 1990s. One person can make a difference. It is an uplifting read.

Child by child, thousands were saved with this kind of meticulous care. The graph of AIDS-related deaths in this country looks like a steep ski slope. 1995 is the peak, when some 53,000 people died of AIDS. Then it’s a steady downhill plunge straight through 2001, when there were fewer than 16,000 AIDS deaths nationwide.

We’ve made huge progress against AIDs, it is now an issue of ensuring that every single HIV+ person gets the care and attention that a Robin Hope was able to provide her three kids. Read to the end of her post to find out how her children are doing!

Then there is the clockman himself, Coturnix, who I am sure, has sold his soul to the devil, how else can he have a family, hold down a teaching job and still post on his blog like there’s no tomorrow?). Maybe in his chronobiology research, he’s found a time-turner? (Share brother Coturnix!). Anyway, he wanted me to choose between three posts, so I decided to pick the one about the assumption that it is normal to work on “farm time”, and how late risers are somehow B-class citizens in Denmark.

Apparently, in Denmark, the ‘larks’ (early-risers) are called ‘A-people’ while ‘owls’ (late-risers) are ‘B-people’. We all know how important language is for eliciting frames, so it must feel doubly insulting for the Danish night owls.

Today, in the age of the internets, telecommuting and fast-increasing knowledge about our rhythms and sleep, retaining the feudal/early capitalism work schedules really does not make sense.

Being a lark myself, it’s easy for me to wake up early in the morning and be productive before noon (like today, doing this carnival!). It must be difficult to work efficiently, and be judged for it, at a time when your circadian rhythms just don’t want to cooperate. But it’s an interesting point, we cling to history and old rhythms for too long. I guess it is a generation gap, and we know that workplaces are very conservative in their thinking.

Then, there is the truly cool Surreal O’Rama from Billy Sugarfix. His featured post is the winner of the very first song poem bizarre lyrics contest. The song is There are things we say in bars, There are things we do.

Take you and your last Good Find.
Go to a nearby star and sleep.
It has happened before but never so bad.

Cool stuff, I love songs that use the word entropy, takes me back to Thermodynamics 101!

We finish with Buzzard Parking, about some of my favorite birds, vultures. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…


That is it from me, hang around, read the rest of the blog, you’ll find it to be all over the place, reflecting my upbringing in India and the attendant hypersensitivity to development issues and colonialism, my time doing sea turtle conservation, my research in environmental science, my current work in the pharm world, and my deep and abiding interest in environmental justice. And remember, next week, we’re being hosted by Scrutiny Hooligans. Now excuse me while I head outdoors for some much needed beach volleyball (woohoo, it’s getting warm!!).

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  1. Wonderful Tavern! Thanks for hosting! (I didn’t get to sending anything in because my asthma medicine was making me sleepy.)

    I’ll need to check out more of your blog – particularly the sea turtles (my daughter is considering going into marine biology) and environmental justice (which I’ve doing lots of research on lately).


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