01.03.12 Gibbon's Goiter





Forgot it was a day off until I got to work. The parking lot was empty, except for three or four cars. Hey, did we got out of business? You’d think I would have read about that in the paper this morning. No, there was a paper this morning, so we didn’t go out of business. Then I get to the newsroom and the boss-class is fully represented in their various glass-walled rooms, and the newsroom is humming as ever - and by “humming” I mean mostly silent, with the occasional burble of a phone - and I wonder who’s usually in the parking lot.


Back in my secret cove - I have a desk in the library instead of the newsroom, freeing up space for actual journalists - it’s as quiet as ever, with the soft thrum of the ventilator making it sound like the Enterprise. You know, this:


(That’s a 24-hour video. Makes you wonder if there’s something hidden at the 17:45 mark, like the ambient sounds of Desert Bus.)

Best white-noise-for-sleeping sound ever; it’s a wonder everyone on the bridge just didn’t nod off at the end of a long shift. The realization that you can nap better if you have background noise was something I realized late in life, when I started taking napping seriously, and I’m still curious about the reasons you fall asleep easier with background noise. Perhaps silence makes your brain alert: any second now, a twig will snap, and I will be attacked by a tiger or an enemy from another tribe who has come to steal my berries and sharpened bones. I have a white-noise program on my phone, and use it on airplanes; I put on the noise-canceling headphones and set it to . . . AIRPLANE. It works, too, right up until the moment I actually fall asleep, which is when your head lolls forward and wakes you up. Repeat 10 times. I know there are pillows that keep that from happening, but it would be easier if A) we could puff up our throats like frogs, or B) had goiters.

Grandma got a goiter, once. So I was told. This was back in the day before iodine, a necessary nutriment, was added to salt. Wikipedia says that other famous goiter sufferers included Kim-Il Sung, and Andrea True, a porn-star-turned-disco-queen who died last year. But not of a goiter. Edward Gibbon had a goiter, but that was the least of his problems:

Gibbon is believed to have suffered from an extreme case of scrotal swelling, probably a hydrocele testis, a condition which causes the scrotum to swell with fluid in a compartment overlying either testicle. In an age when close-fitting clothes were fashionable, his condition led to a chronic and disfiguring inflammation that left Gibbon a lonely figure.

Lonely because he couldn’t wear tight pants? I say, there’s that brilliant historian and member of Parliament. Look at the generous dimensions of his britchery. Let us shun him! Haw haw.

No goiters in the west since they flouridated the salt, so to speak. I learned of the use of iodine and Grandma’s goiter when I asked my mother why the salt had iodine. That was the least of it, though. I could not figure out why the Morton’s Salt girl was walking around in the rain dumping out salt. When it rains, it pours. Was that a condition? The salt will pour, but when it rains. (I had the same problem with “Have Gun, Will Travel,” wondering if Palladin would decline to travel if he didn’t have a gun. Sorry, stuck at home; pistol’s in the shop.) Of course I had no idea that salt used to clump when humidity rose, and the Morton guarantee was free-flowing salt even in wet weather, thanks to an additive.


Googling around about Morton’s, I was reminded that the salt-seller was once owned by Thiokol, a company whose name sounds like a particularly nasty underworld god. To paraphase the wikipedia entry: After the Challenger disaster, which some blamed on Thiokol components, the company split, with Morton handling salt and Thokol handling rocket-propulsion.

Okay. Now. Hold on. If I understand this correctly, then there was once a company called Morton-Thiokol, and they made salt, and rockets. So the person who opened the mail every day probably had two baskets, one marked SALT and the other marked ROCKETS, and they were on opposite sites of the desk. Open the mail, scan the contents: well, that’s one for Salt. Open another, give it a read: hmm, something something velocity something ignition, I’m going with rockets.

The name of the company comes from an unnatural conjoining of the Greek words for Sulfur and Glue, possibly because people wouldn’t really want to work for Consolidated Sulfur and Glue. Even in the days of toxic work environments, you’re really asking for it when you work at Sulfur and Glue.

Anyway, the white-noise generator also has Brown Noise, which I’d never heard about until I got the app. Good thing I didn’t google it:

The brown note is a theoretical infrasonic frequency that would cause humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance. There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that a "brown note" exists, using sound waves transmitted through air

You can hear examples here. There’s also pink noise, which is much busier. You can see why I like Brown Noise; it’s what white noise should be. The app also has useless sounds like “Grandfather Clock” - as if anyone can get to sleep with TICK; TOCK / TICK; TOCK counting off your life - and “vacuum cleaner,” which just makes me think “my wife is doing something domestic and useful around the house while I’m trying to sleep.” It doesn’t have “nearby highway,” which can be calming as well. Unless there’s an ambulance. On the way in today I saw an ambulance shooting up 35W behind me, and when it screamed past I saw it was from a suburb about 20 miles to the south. It was headed to the Hennepin County Medical Center. Now, I know they have substantial hospitals down there, as well as a large complex in between downtown and the ‘burb. Made me wonder just what qualifies you to get a ride all the way downtown - is there some specialty in which they excel? What’s that? Total skin removal? We have a dedermal Trauma Center, yes. Oh, we’re open. Drop-ins always welcome.

So, that was today. That, and watching the clock hands move on the City Hall tower.
Usually you can’t see them move, because you’re not watching. This isn’t the most thrill-a-minute city, but folks don’t stand around and watch the clock hands move. But the light hit it just right, and it shone, and for a few seconds you could see it tremble as it summoned the strength to tick up from :33 to :34.

It’s bigger than Big Ben, you know. By four inches.


See that little protrusion near the pinnacle? I've been there.


blog comments powered by Disqus