The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘insomnia’

The Peculiarities of the Olfactory Sense in Insects

May 24, 2016 | by

From a 1917 ad for Sagless Spring Mattresses.

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: a chapter from Ants and Some Other Insects: An Inquiry into the Psychic Powers of These Animals, a 1904 book by the University of Zurich’s Dr. August Forel.

An insect is extraordinarily stupid and inadaptable to all things not related to its instincts. Nevertheless I succeeded in teaching a water-beetle (Dytiscus marginalis) which in nature feeds only in the water, to eat on my table. While thus feeding, it always executed a clumsy flexor-movement with its fore-legs which brought it over on its back. The insect learned to keep on feeding while on its back, but it would not dispense with this movement, which is adapted to feeding in the water. On the other hand, it always attempted to leap out of the water (no longer fleeing to the bottom of the vessel) when I entered the room, and nibbled at the tip of my finger in the most familiar manner. Now these are certainly plastic variations of instinct. In a similar manner some large Algerian ants which I transplanted to Zurich, learned during the course of the summer months to close the entrance of their nest with pellets of earth, because they were being persecuted and annoyed by our little Lasius niger. In Algiers I always saw the nest-opening wide open. There are many similar examples which go to show that these tiny animals can utilize some few of their experiences even when this requires a departure from the usual instincts. Read More »

Leather for Libraries

March 22, 2016 | by

Gustave Courbet, Schlafende Spinnerin, 1853

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “History of Sumach Tanning in England, Degradation of the Manufacture of Leather, and History of the Reform Movement,” the first chapter of Leather for Libraries, a 1905 book by E. Windham Hulme.

The section of the leather trade to which this Handbook relates is that concerned in the manufacture of light leathers tanned with a pale tannage preparatory to being dyed. Bark and most other vegetable tanning substances leave a colour on the skin which cannot be removed without detriment to the durability of the leather; the retention of the colour, however, detracts from the purity of the final colour imparted by the dye. The reputation in the past of the sumach-tanned Spanish leather was founded upon this peculiar property of sumach of leaving the skin white, and on this point the wisdom of the ancients has been justified by the results of an exhaustive series of experiments conducted by the Society of Arts’ Committee, which have given to sumach the first place in the list of tannages for light leathers. Read More »

The Administration of Timberlands in Canada

February 10, 2016 | by

Bernardo Strozzi, Sleeping Child, after 1607

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Administration of Timberlands in Canada,” a chapter from Bernhard E. Fernow’s A Brief History of Forestry in Europe, the United States, and Other Countries, published in 1911.

In the development of ownership conditions, the realization of the valuable assets in timber growth had not been overlooked by the home government, care of supplies for naval construction giving, as in the United States, the first incentive to a conservative forest policy.

Even under the early French rule, the grants of land were made under reservation of the oak timber fit for naval use, as is evidenced from a landgrant made in 1683. This reservation led to considerable friction as it hampered the colonists in making their clearings on the best lands. Later, the reservation was extended to include other timber needed for military purposes, and when the British occupation began, these established rights of the crown were not only continued, but reservations of larger areas for the timber were ordered, notably around and north of Lake Champlain. In 1763, and again in 1775, the home government ordered reservations to be set aside in every township. Read More »

The Looming Dark: An Interview with Linda Pastan

January 6, 2016 | by

Photo: Carina Romano

There’s a popular story about Linda Pastan: she won her first poetry prize as a senior at Radcliffe in the fifties, and the runner-up was one Sylvia Plath. It was an auspicious start for Pastan, even if she had never heard of Plath at the time. She’s gone on to publish fourteen books, amassing a host of accolades along the way. Her latest collection, Insomnia, appeared last fall. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review since 1987; the most recent, “The Collected Poems,” was in the Fall 2015 issue.

“There is no self-pity,” May Sarton wrote of Pastan’s Five Stages of Grief: “she has reached down to a deeper layer and is letting the darkness in. These poems are full of foreboding and acceptance, a wry unsentimental acceptance of hard truth.” The same could be said of Insomnia, in which Pastan, who is eighty-three now, reckons with old age in lines that are variously restless and serene, spirited and subdued. “Why are these old, gnarled trees so beautiful,” she writes, “while I am merely old and gnarled?” In these poems, the bucolic and the morbid are never far apart. In “Root Ball,” she likens an asteroid that lands in her garden to “a giant brain, ripped from its skull.” I spoke to Pastan, who lives in Potomac, Maryland, about sleep, dreams, and manure.

Did a lot of the poems in this collection emerge from sleeplessness?

I do suffer from insomnia myself, and on more than one occasion, while I’m lying in the dark, the solution to a problem I’ve been struggling with in a poem actually, and magically, comes to me. But more usually I try to put myself to sleep by thinking about the plot of a book I’m reading or a movie I just saw. Many people my age seem to have trouble sleeping, and I suppose it may be because that long and final sleep is just ahead, and even if we don’t acknowledge it, we want to be awake and aware as long as possible. I was warned early not to give a book a title that would make it easy for a reviewer to slam you. Such as, If you have insomnia, try reading this book and it will put you right to sleep. And it has occurred to me that one or more people might buy the book thinking it will help them with their own sleep problems. But more seriously, I chose Insomnia as my title because the word conjures for me a struggle with consciousness itself as well as a struggle with the looming dark, just outside the window. Read More »

History of the Beef Cattle Industry in Illinois

December 2, 2015 | by

Gustave Courbet, Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine (Summer), 1856.

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Cattle Barons and Pioneer Drovers of Illinois,” a chapter from Frank Webster Farley’s History of the Beef Cattle Industry in Illinois, a 1915 thesis submitted “for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in the College of Agriculture of the University of Illinois.”

Previous to the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, no droves of cattle were seen in the country west of Ohio. The first drove ever driven from Illinois was taken from Springfield, through Chicago, to Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1825, by Colonel William S. Hamilton. Beginning with this date, the practice of collecting cattle into droves and driving them to market soon grew from a minor occupation into an industry within itself; beef cattle that were grown and fattened in Illinois were gathered together into large droves by men who made it a business, and were driven to the then great cattle markets on the sea board. Foremost among these early pioneer cattlemen were: Jacob Strawn, John T. Alexander, B. F. Harris, and Tom C. Ponting. In the scope of their operations, Jacob Strawn and John T. Alexander exceeded many of the conspicuous operators in the rise and fall of the range industry in this state. These men owned hundreds of acres of the prairie land of the state, on which they collected enormous droves of cattle. These cattle were grazed here throughout the spring and summer, then were fed during the winter. It was no uncommon occurrence for one of these operators to buy all the corn for sale during one season in three or four counties. The next spring these fat bullocks were trailed across the level country to the eastern mountain ranges, over which they climbed to reach Lancaster, Philadelphia, and New York. Cincinnati and Buffalo received a few of these cattle, but most of them were driven on through to the markets on the sea board, where better prices were obtained. These cities bore about the same relation to the livestock traffic of those days as Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and St. Joseph bear to the cattle trade of today; they were the collecting points for the business, and the slaughterers who bought them either salted the carcasses down in barrels and casks or sold them to local consumers. Other dealers, however, bought some of these cattle and drove them on to smaller towns nearer the coast. “In the census of 1850, it was recorded that Illinois alone sent 2,000 head of cattle each week to the New York market.” Read More »

One-upmanship in the Morning

November 4, 2015 | by


The Awakening, 1900.

Back in the bad old days, wags used to say the streets of Alphabet City stood, from west to east, for Adventurous, Bold, Crazy, and Dead. I’ve long thought that we need a similar system for categorizing the different hours at which one wakes up. I suggest:

Nine – Nonchalant

Eight – Effortless

Seven – Sensible

Six – Self-motivated

Five – Fantastical

Four – Fast-living

These are, obviously, encumbered by their alliteration. Of course I’d rather have substituted a slatternly here or a debauched there, but that would defeat the purpose, and this gets the idea across. Unless your job or lifestyle demands unorthodox hours, this seems to me a rough guide to such things. Read More »