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Ant Pheromones - the New Catnip

We have the occasional problem with tiny black ants coming into our kitchen because I sit bottles of honey on the kitchen windowsill so the sun can warm them to prevent the honey from crystallizing. Recently I made some lavender herb honey, and yesterday I heated the honey to 110 degrees, strained out the lavender leaves, and threw them in the sink without running the disposal. We went out to dinner, and when we returned, the husky fumes of warm honey and honey-soaked lavender leaves in the sink had attracted the ants in droves.

For most people, this is a minor emergency, but I was actually more glad than alarmed to see the ants, because this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I got some ants on my hands (you can't feel pain when little black ants bite you because they're only 1/16" long), and crushed them. Then I offered my hand to my cat. He went wild, pupils wide, scent-marking everything in sight, licking, and biting.

A few weeks ago, I had killed a few ants, then sat down next to my cat, when he exhibited exactly the same behavior. I suspected ant phermones, but I had been outside working in the yard and potted plants, so I couldn't be sure it was the ants. Now there was no doubt.

Thanks to the Internet, I found out ants produce nepetalactone, the oily substance responsible for catnip's mind-altering effects in cats. It's thought the ants use it to repel predator insects.

Other people have noticed this, too. (Warning: contains excessive cat freak emoticons)

:: Bryan Travis :: 04/30/2005 @ 18:36 :: [link] ::

Read Down and Out in a Day

I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow in one day. Lots of people read novels in a day, but it says something coming from me because I'm a slow reader. Of course, this was during spring break a couple weeks ago before finals came along and made life interesting. Down and Out is a real page turner. Set in a futuristic world where material supply problems have been solved, people are immortal (more or less), and money has been replaced by a popularity score, a measure of what society thinks you're worth, which, after all, is what money is indirectly supposed to represent, anyway. This new currency just gets right to the point.

Heinlein fans will no doubt be reminded of Time Enough For Love... or at least I was, but since I'm not a Heinlein fan, I guess I can't speak for true Heinlein fans.

Down and Out is published under the Creative Commons license; you can read it online for free.

:: Bryan Travis :: 04/24/2005 @ 16:36 :: [link] ::

Pharmacist's Duty to Dispense

Several reports of pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control medications, even contraceptive devices, on moral grounds have been publicized recently. I can't help but think that while this has only recently caught national attention, this behavior by pharmacists has been going on for much longer.

I am but a lowly pharmacy student one week away from completing his first year final exams, but I have a couple thoughts on the matter:

  • The decision to pursue medical therapy belongs to the prescriber and the patient. The pharmacist may refuse to dispense only for safety reasons; that is, if the medication threatens the patient's health. Even so, the pharmacist is obligated to call the prescriber to discuss the therapy.

  • I support giving pharmacists an "out" for moral concerns. If someone believes birth control is murder, don't make them an accessory. However, withholding prescriptions for time-sensitive medications, or even failing to tell the patient where the nearest pharmacy is or asking another pharmacist on duty to fill the prescription, is belligerent. Remember whose decision it is to pursue treatment.

  • There is a legal loophole for pharmacists who do not want to prescribe a certain drug or brand of drug: don't stock the drug in the pharmacy's formulary. Then it becomes a simple issue of telling the patient that "we don't stock that drug here," and it's perfectly legal. For retail and community pharmacies, this decision is for the PIC (pharmacist in charge, the pharmacist in every pharmacy who assumes final responsibility for all pharmacy operations before the state board of pharmacy) and the store owner/manager. Of course, a pharmacy won't pull birth control from its formulary just for one pharmacist; a morally conservative pharmacist would have to find a similarly conservative independent pharmacy owner to make the formulary loophole work.

:: Bryan Travis :: 04/23/2005 @ 12:51 :: [link] ::

About that last post

I don't remember what that last post was about. Yahoo expires its news stories in 3-4 weeks, so I can't even begin to dig it back up.

I'm pretty lame.

:: Bryan Travis :: 04/23/2005 @ 09:32 :: [link] ::