The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘insomnia’

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 »

Cold Storage, Heating, and Ventilating on Board Ship

October 8, 2015 | by

Augustus Egg, The Travelling Companions (detail), 1862, oil on canvas.

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: Cold Storage, Heating, and Ventilating on Board Shipa 1911 guide by Sydney Ferris Walker.

A cold store is a chamber that is built expressly to prevent heat from passing from outside to the produce inside. It is not possible to construct a chamber that will not allow some heat to pass through the walls, floor and ceiling, and this heat which is constantly leaking through into the chamber has to be removed, just as that of the produce itself is, and transported to the sea or the atmosphere. The quantity of heat that leaks through depends upon the difference of temperature between the inside and outside of the cold chamber, upon the construction of the walls, floor and roof, and upon the extent of the surfaces exposed to the action of the heat. Certain substances are good thermal insulators, just as certain substances are good electrical insulators, and the thermal insulators are used to prevent the ingress of heat into the cold chambers, in the same way that electrical insulators are used to prevent the egress of electricity from the I conductors. This fact is very often not understood, and is sometimes challenged, because the sizes are so different; but if it be borne in mind that the thickness of the walls of the chamber correspond with the thickness of the insulating envelope of a cable, or even of the insulation of the iron core of the armature of a dynamo machine, though they are much greater, while the air inside the chamber corresponds with the copper or the iron, it will probably be appreciated that heat leaks in through the thermal insulator just as electricity leaks out through the electrical insulator. Dry, still air is the best insulator known, and the other substances that are good insulators owe their property very largely to the fact that they contain a large number of very small air cells, across which the heat current has to pass. Read More »

The Square Root of Two

July 30, 2015 | by

Joaquín Agrasot y Juan, Las Dos Amigas, 1866.

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: The Square Root of Two, an e-book sequel to Pi published in 2008 by Stan Kerr. NB: The text is abridged. 

This choice was made by popular demand for a second number, from the responses to our posting of Pi to a million places as one of the January, 1993 Project Gutenberg Etexts. This was surprising, in that we never expected the massive response we got. For you, who are interested, we will also do e, Pi to the e, e to the Pi, and perhaps a few more. Suggestions welcome. For those who are not interested, don’t worry, we don’t have many of these in mind.

This electronic text was prepared by Stan Kerr as below. He would like this computation confirmed. This was computed on a Convex C240 using Richard Brent’s multiple precision arithmetic routines (MP), published as algorithm 524 in the March 1978 issue of Transactions on Mathematical Software. Using the MP routines, a base of 10,000 was chosen, to make the final decimal conversion trivial. The time to compute sqrt(2) was 32293 seconds, and the time to compute sqrt(2)**2-2 as a check was 31031 seconds. The number is presented as an integer. Read More »

Things to Know About Trademarks

June 16, 2015 | by


Ferdinand Max Bredt, Couch with Sleeping Lady, date unknown.

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 prose available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Infringement,” the fourth chapter of Things to Know About Trade-marks: A Manual of Trade-mark Information, a 1911 book by J. Walter Thompson Company.

There is no intrinsic value in a trade-mark. Its worth in dollars is a creation, and it depends upon the successful sale, or popularity, of the commodity to which the trade-mark is applied, the distribution of this commodity, the extent to which it has been advertised, and the profit that there is in it.

Some widely-known trade-marks are worth millions of dollars, and many are valued at a hundred thousand dollars or more.

The ownership of an advertised and favorably known trade-mark is, therefore, a valuable property right. In estimating the assets of a business, its trade-mark is included under the head of Good-Will, and Good-Will is Reputation. The value of a trade-mark is the value of the reputation of the goods it represents and identifies. Read More »