Monthly Archives: May 2009

I prefer my nails to be of the nine inch variety

I went to the NIN concert last night and it was amazing.  I got a few small bruises, about a beer and a half spilled on me, and an ass rocked clean off.  Totally worth it.  Trent and crew were absolutely amazing.

However, the opening band was Tom Morello’s new group Street Sweeper Social Scene and they were seriously disappointing.  It didn’t help that they were wearing THEIR OWN BANDS T-SHIRTS ON STAGE!  Completely unacceptable.  Speaking of which, I have come up with a small list of rules for all the people who attend concerts from someone who has been to more than his fair share over the past decade.

Some rules for concert goers.

1. You are allowed two (2) pictures and one (1) 30 second video on your damn camera or phone.  If you attempt to take more you will take an elbow to the back or an attempt to break your recording device.  Concerts are about the immediate experience, not posterity.  How about you enjoy the show instead of worrying about taking a freaking picture.

2. Band t-shirts are NEVER to be worn to the concert.  I don’t care if it’s the new tour shirt, it is still (and always will be) unacceptable.

3. Screams and clapping are allowed.  That stupid, high-pitched dog whistle thing people do is fucking annoying and useless.

4. Don’t sing all the words.  Focus on rocking out and being caught up in the moment.  That’s what a live show is all about.

That’s about it for now.  I have more stuff to write about, but I have other junk to take care of first.

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Filed under music, ROCK

Growed up stuff

I am beat from doing grown-up stuff all day.

The new lab is becoming somewhat chaotic due to my presence and I fear it will only become worse.  I’m part of five separate projects right now, and I’m at a stage right now where I’m fairly confident in doing what I need to get done but still not sure how it fits into the larger picture.  My projects are sort of all over the place: check if there is heteromerization of a particular protein complex, validate and optimize qPCR primers, clone vectors to check protein-protein interactions (eventually), do a validation western blot for a supplement for an upcoming publication, and begin research for a review article.  That’s a hell of a lot of shit for a guy who has only been in the lab a little over two weeks and is on his first grad school lab rotation.

Essentially, I need a project.  Something I can do with help from the other grad students but is entirely mine.  I know enough to be dangerous and I’m intelligent enough to pick up what I don’t already know, so I don’t know why I haven’t gotten a project yet.

I certainly hope if I get one it isn’t one of those “be careful what you wish for” experiences.

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Filed under animal research, grad school, life, Those Other Sciences

An odd anniversary

So yesterday was my third wedding anniversary. It’s interesting because I am currently in the process of getting a divorce. So… yeah.

It actually wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be; the still-current-but-soon-to-be-ex wife and I just got drunk on cheap whiskey and had some fun. All in all it was better than our first anniversary where I dropped $300 on dinner and then got yelled at by my wife because I wasn’t “romantic” enough.

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Filed under just sad, marriage

A much needed response

My last post brought about a very important comment from Sarah about some mothers she has met. I was just simply going to comment on what she said, but then I saw the front page of the Chicago Tribune today and saw this and my blood began to boil and I decided that I had to post about vaccines, autism, and pseudoscience.

First, let me say that while I’m somewhat knowledgeable about the subject I am far from an expert. However, there are plenty of excellent resources for science-based autism and vaccine research right here on the interwebz. I’ll give a very quick overview of what lead to all of this craziness.

-Vaccines have effectively eradicated (at least in the first world) smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, and many other diseases. The development of vaccines is easily one of the greatest medical advances in human history. Seriously, it’s right up there with cleanliness and antibiotics.

-Some vaccines contained a mercury-containing preservative (thermiosal). When autism started getting huge about a decade ago people started blaming vaccines because a few quacks were being very vocal about their hypothesis that it is the mercury in the vaccines that is causing all these cases of autism.

-Looking for any explanation as to why their children were sick, parents all over England and the US began making the false connection between their child’s autism and vaccinations.

-To stem fears the mercury-containing preservative (which is harmless in the dosage received during vaccination) was removed from the majority of vaccines and is now only found in trace amounts in a small number of them such as the flu vaccine. Lo and behold, autism numbers didn’t drop. INSTEAD, THEY HAVE BEEN CLIMBING!

-Anti-vaxers (as we call them) refuse to believe the evidence before them and still believe vaccines to be the root cause of the autism epidemic.

So, with that said here’s my take on this whole debacle. It’s human nature to want answers. Unfortunately, science takes a long time and hasn’t come up with an answer to autism yet, so people whose worlds have been turned upside down because of the disorder look to people who say they know the answer and, due to a lack of other options, listen to them and believe what they say (also, because many times the very same people have “cures” for autism)

What makes this problem all the more difficult is autism itself. What we call autism is in fact a sort of catch-all group of early onset developmental delays. Though we don’t like to admit it diagnoses can become “trendy” (remember ADHD?) and it seems now that if a child shows any signs of a developmental delay s/he is automatically labeled as autistic. This is not a new disorder, it is a new label. There have been and always will be kids with such delays, but while they simply may have been called “slow,” “retarded,” “weird,” or whatever back in the day we have an actual medical diagnosis for them now. And just like any other disease, the more people who know about it, the more people will see it.

The most important thing to know is this: autism is not developmental stasis, it is a developmental delay. Unfortunately, these delays become apparent around the time children should be getting their first shots. See the problem here? People have a very very hard time distinguishing between correlation and causation. Just because something two things happen around the same time does not mean one caused the other, but for some reason a lot of people can’t seem to wrap their head around that fact. All they know is that little Jimmy got his vaccines and then developed autism.

What they don’t know is the damage they are doing. First, they are weakening the herd immunity and becoming serious threats to the overall health of our nation by refusing to vaccinate their children and spreading their ridiculous health claims. Second, they are pulling funding away from real autism research by focusing on stuff that has already been studied time and time again and found to be false. Lastly, they are further eroding confidence in our medical system. Our fucking incredible medical system. God I’m pissed.

Oh, and Oprah can go fuck herself for getting Jenny McCarthy a pedestal to spew her ridiculous and dangerous nonsense. Fuck them both.

Alright, now I’m pissed, so I’m going to stop writing.

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Filed under crazy, just sad, medicine, morality, Those Other Sciences

Wandering through medicine

I had this whole long post about the complications of medicine, but in the end decided I could sum up a very long post with a few simple lines.

1. You don’t know more than your doctor. No matter how good you are at Google searches YOU DON’T HAVE A MEDICAL DEGREE.

2. If there are legitimate, science-based, treatments then use them in place of alternative treatments. They’re alternative because they don’t work. You know what they call alternative treatments that do work? Medicine.

3. Your doctor really does want to help you no matter what anyone else may tell you.

4. Your doctor is not omniscient or infallible, but s/he is the best bet you have at staying healthy.

5. Like I’ve said before, modern medicine has become so good that we have begun to expect too much from it. Do we expect a single person (or even two or three) to know how the entire space shuttle works and be able to fix it at the drop of a hat? Then why do we expect a single person or even a small group of very intelligent people to figure out everything wrong with something significantly more complicated like the human body? It doesn’t make sense.

6. Medicine is harder than you know, so leave it to the experts.

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Filed under grad school, just sad, medicine, pet peeve, Those Other Sciences

Imposter syndrome

I’m suffering from a mild case of the imposter syndrome right now.  It’s normal to feel such things considering my situation, but it still sucks.  Tuesday I began my first lab rotation for grad school.  In the biological sciences you typically rotate through three different labs that you pick during your first year.  It’s only part-time because you’re taking classes at the same time, but it’s done so you can develop an idea of what labs, people, techniques, etc. you like.  Then, at the end of the first year you pick one of those labs to become associated with and that is where you will develop and complete your thesis project.

The lab rotation I’m doing is anomalous due to a “perfect storm” sort of circumstances.  First, I live in the city where I’m going to grad school, I have nothing to do since being laid off, I have a few years of previous experience (making me a little more valuable in the lab), and I have the whole summer to work.  This means that instead of a part-time, 8 week stint in a lab where you would only get a taste of the research and techniques I get to spend three months in a lab working full time.  That’s enough time to successfully complete a small scale project from start to finish (maybe two if everything goes well).

The PI (Primary Investigator) paired me with one of his MD/PhD students who is a great guy and has taught me more in the past week than I have learned in the past two years at my old job.  It’s crazy, I actually have to use my brain again.  That typically wouldn’t be bad, but after not having to use it for the past two years it’s slow to come back.  And I also know very little about the techniques commonly used in the lab, though I’m catching on quickly since I have a fair amount of background knowledge and a little bit of common sense.  All in all I think this will be a great experience after I get over my feelings of inadequacy.

Now I should get back to reading the pile of papers I have in front of me so I can further understand what the lab is doing (currently slogging through a 15 pager they just had published in JNeurosci… fun stuff).

List of things to become good at in the next week:

1. Cell cultures
2. Mouse brain dissections
3. Co-immunoprecipitations
4. Getting back on the qPCR bandwagon…

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Filed under animal research, grad school, life, Those Other Sciences

More of the same story

Fine, I’m not a perfect person.  In fact, I’ve fucked up A LOT in my life, some serious but most not.  While I may mess up at least I take blame for what I have done when I care about the person I have wronged (if I don’t like ’em, then fuck ’em); the “current” wife does not.  This has caused innumerable fights over the past five years.  We both do something wrong, I take my fair share of blame, she blames me for all of it and refuses to take any responsibility, then we end up fighting over that rather than fixing the underlying problem.

She blamed me for everything that went wrong in our marriage and it was that single fact that led me to give up caring about our marriage.  It’s a horrible situation and I wish it hadn’t come to this, but it has and now I have to deal with it.  While I’m fine and I’m certain I’ll continue to be fine I am not so sure she will be.  Blaming others for your own failures is a serious issue that will come to bite you in the ass, and while this (and many other) lessons seem obvious to most of us they aren’t to those who really need to learn them.  I genuinely hope that she learns this lesson but I know she won’t and even though I don’t have an much of an emotional stake in her anymore I still feel “bad” (I know there’s a better word for what I feel, but I can’t think of it right now).

Because of all of this I don’t feel bad about getting divorced, yet it’s difficult nonetheless.  I’m frightened of becoming lonely and what that might lead to, but not enough to forgo the divorce and live a miserable life just to be with someone.  Oh well, shit happens, and I’m dealing with it.

Things could be worse, I could be on fire.

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Filed under crazy, life, marriage, sleep deprived